Inspectors general say the Army has not yet put in place procedures sufficient to ensure that chemical arms are handled safely and that people are properly protected.
That has special significance to Utah, where the Tooele Army Depot stores 42.3 percent of the nation's chemical arms.The criticism by inspectors general is in an Army Audit Agency report dated last September, which was obtained by the Deseret News through a Freedom of Information Act request.
In it, inspectors said the Army did not effectively implement an internal control program for toxic chemicals.
They said officers in charge narrowed their scope too far and focused only on chemical "surety" - or making sure chemical agents and munitions are maintained safely, securely and reliably.
Inspectors said - and Army command agreed - that they should have broadened their view and developed numerous checklists to better ensure chemical safety for those around them, medical testing of workers, proper management of chemical stockpile inventories and proper destruction of aging arms. They said much of that is not covered in current checklists and procedures.
Inspectors also complained officers had "assigned chemical surety a low risk that did not fully recognize the problems found during inspections and audits" at sites nationwide.
Inspectors said officers had given chemical surety a low risk assessment based on personal judgment and surety inspection reports.
"However, we believe they need to perform another risk assessment to determine whether surety should be raised to a `high' risk. Recent inspection reports have shown that several installations have surety problems that indicate a need for stronger internal controls.
"Raising the risk level increases the frequency at which managers are to perform internal control reviews. More frequent reviews would allow managers to identify and correct the types of problems inspectors are finding."
Such problems found at some installations nationally included:
- Workers not using masks in mustard agent storage structures, or using continuous low-level detectors and alarms.
- Workers not properly using low-level detectors to determine chemical agent concentrations after gross-level detectors showed agent was present.
- Not requiring people to wear the proper protective clothing and masks in toxic chemical storage yards.
- Not ensuring workers take regular blood tests as required to determine whether they have been exposed to small amounts of agent over time. (An earlierinspector general report obtained by the Deseret News said 23 percent of Tooele Army Depot workers fail to take such tests as required, which is the only way to positively ensure they have not been exposed to chemicals.)
- Procedures for assessing condition of the chemical stockpile "did not include adequate surveillance inspections to identify leaking agents" and, the report said, did not ensure proper recording of inspection results.
- No checklists have been developed to ensure destruction of chemical arms complies with strict environmental policies and laws.
Inspectors recommended, and Army command agreed, that procedures and checklists to better address such problems be developed and noted some groups are already working on them.
Despite such shortcomings in the design of procedures, inspectors general said they found the Army appears to have generally performed well anyway in taking care of its chemical stockpiles.
Of note, inspectors general earlier looked specifically at Tooele Army Depot operations as part of the Army-wide audit just released that criticized procedures.
That audit about Tooele was previously reported by the Deseret News and showed Tooele's handling of chemicals to be "generally adequate."
It noted that inventories of arms were accurate, maintenance of arms was effective and regular, procedures for checking the conditions of arms were adequate and performed regularly, and safety plans were in place and being followed.
The one exception was ensuring that employees took regular blood tests. The audit said 124 of 536 people - or 23 percent - who work around chemical arms at Tooele failed to take such tests when they should have. The latest audit said other facilities did worse, with up to 52 percent failing to take them on time.
The audit at Tooele was conducted June through September 1989.
Spokesmen have said at least 784 arms at Tooele are leaking - ranging from chemical rockets to bombs and land mines - and are specially encased awaiting destruction.
Most of the leakers are old M55 rockets, which contain 10.7 pounds each of nerve agent. Breathing just 100 milligrams is enough to cause death.