As the years have passed, it became abundantly clear that the United States was not going to meet the deadline to destroy chemical weapons stored at military depots across the nation. In fact, the original 2007 deadline was twice extended to 2017. But communities with these caustic and deadly weapons in their backyards have operated under the assumption that these weapons would be destroyed locally under highly controlled conditions.
From time to time, Department of Defense officials have proposed transporting these weapons across state lines to existing destruction facilities. A recent report resurrected the idea of moving weapons stored in Army depots in Colorado and Oregon for destruction at the Tooele Chemical Agent Disposal Facility.
It's a rotten idea, one that needs to be stopped in its tracks.
For one, it's prohibited under federal law. Utah's congressional delegation and Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. have already vetoed the idea. It's doubtful Congress would change the law.
Second, the aging weapons can leak, which could imperil communities along the route, not to mention the workers tasked to escort the weapons. Leaks have been occasionally detected in storage igloos or on projectiles throughout the destruction campaign at the Tooele Chemical Agent Disposal Facility. It's one thing to handle a leak in a controlled environment, quite another on a rail car or truck.
Each of the communities that have chemical and nerve weapons slated for destruction under the Chemical Weapons Convention have undergone deliberative processes with the Pentagon in an attempt to establish destruction technologies that are safe and to protect the environment. For instance, the chemical weapons incinerator in Tooele County was bitterly fought by environmentalists. During construction and operation, they have served a watchdog role. Over time, public fears about the Tooele incinerator have eased.
When it completes its mission, the incinerator should be decommissioned. Utah but more specifically, Tooele County has done its part to destroy the chemical weapons stored at the Tooele Chemical Depot. It should not be burdened with aging stockpiles in other states, particularly when residents of those communities are willing to proceed with destroying the weapons at facilities constructed close to where the weapons currently are stored.