A new Army study contending that germ warfare defense research poses no public threat contains information that other Army documents indicate is wrong or misleading.
The new Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Army's Biological Defense Research Program says, for example, that no existing facilities have been contaminated by germ research. But other documents say a vast area of Utah's West Desert is likely contaminated with buried, unexploded germ warfare arms used in early testing.The new document also says open-air testing for germ research has always been small-scale. But other documents say the Army in fact sprayed hundreds of gallons of liquids highly concentrated with deadly germs over Dugway Proving Ground.
Also questionable in the new report - according to other Army statements and documents - are statements that the Army uses only harmless materials in open-air tests, that the Army has not introduced new diseases into the environment and that virtually all records about germ research are open for inspection.
Those contradictions may raise questions about the truthfulness of the new report's central claim of safety about Army germ research - which is conducted at 103 sites internationally, including three in Utah: Dugway, Brigham Young University and Utah State University.
Many of the contradictory statements in the new 2-inch-thick document come in an appendix where the Army replies to concerns raised about public hearings held in Virginia and at Tooele Army Depot about germ research.
Following are questionable statements followed by information that contradicts them at least somewhat.
NEW REPORT SAYS: "There are no contaminated facilities where research activities under the Biological Research Defense Program are or were performed (page A15-28)." And, "There are no hazardous biological waste sites at Dugway (page A15-109)."
CONTRADICTION: The Deseret News last year obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request surveys made by the Army of waste sites at and near Dugway. They said a 66-square-mile area of public land south of the base was likely contaminated with buried, unexploded arms - including germ and chemical weapons. It lists dozens of other sites likely contaminated with "agent residue," but it is unclear whether that is from chemicals or germ agents.
NEW REPORT SAYS: "Testing with aerosols of pathogens is and always has been small scale and is conducted only in small sealed chambers inside closed containment rooms (page A15-3)."
CONTRADICTION: That reflects current, reported Army practice. But numerous documents talk of dropping aerosols of deadly germs in the past from airplanes or firing them from towers at Dugway.
For example, investigative reporter Charles Piller wrote in "The Nation" that Army documents he obtained through the FOIA show at least 450 gallons of germ agents were disseminated in tests through 1969 - and likely much more. That is significant because just one drop contains billions of organisms, and just one organism is enough in some cases to cause infection.
To show the large amounts of germs that might have been used, Piller said just one test in 1958 dropped 40 gallons of deadly Q-fever slurry from an F-100A jet traveling near the speed of sound.
NEW REPORT SAYS: "There is no large-scale aerosol testing at Dugway with pathogens. Open air testing is conducted only with simulants (page A15-5)." And it later says Serratia marcescens is not used in germ research.
CONTRADICTION: According to numerous documents obtained by the Deseret News, Serratia marcescens was used for years by the Army in open-air tests as one of its "safe" simulants. It's use was discontinued after scientists reported it can cause infections in people who are already sick.
Leonard Cole, a Rutgers professor who wrote the book "Clouds of Secrecy," contends no simulant used by the Army is absolutely safe and can cause sickness among the young, the old or the sick.
NEW REPORT SAYS: "Investigations conducted on selected aspects of the flora and fauna of the Dugway Proving Ground environs have supported the conclusions that there have been no measurable effects" of introducing new germs into environments where they did not exist naturally before.
CONTRADICTION: A 1967 study raises doubts about that and ironically was quoted as a reference in the new study. Three University of Utah researchers wrote that they found in the blood of animals near Dugway antigens formed when infected by Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis (VEE). The disease was previously found naturally only in Florida and Louisiana, not the Utah desert.
Dugway has denied using VEE in open-air tests but has used it in lab tests. In congressional hearings in 1969 after a chemical test accident killed 6,000 sheep in Skull Valley, several scientists testified they felt the U. study showed great likelihood that VEE was introduced into the Utah environment by testing at Dugway.
Also, documents obtained by Piller suggest that the Army used open-air Q-fever tests before it knew whether Q-fever germs were found naturally in Utah. Responding to that charge in the new study, the Army merely says, "Q fever is endemic (found naturally) throughout much of the United States - including the state of Utah."
NEW REPORT SAYS: "The Biological Defense Research Program is an open, unclassified program (page A15-16)."
CONTRADICTION: The Deseret News has requested final reports of all open-air testing at Dugway for the past 10 years. Many such reports were not written or cannot be found, according to Army spokesmen. Those that were found were not released because they were for distribution only to government employees. When the Deseret News requested final reports on every tenth Dugway open-air test conducted between 1940 and 1980, those files also could not be located, Army spokesmen said.