Petition against dumping VX nerve agent in Delaware River

A message from Eleanor:

Please sign and forward this important petition against the dumping by Dupont and the US Army of toxic waste in the Delaware River. Please help the people of this area fight this contamination of their environment. Nobody knows what effect this dumping will have in the long term, not Dupont and not the Army!


I had meant to include this link with the petition link! In case anyone needs more background info! Thanks to all who have signed! You are just wonderful!

Love and thanks!



US Army Plans To Dump Neutralized Nerve Gas Into Delaware


Nerve gas has village at wits' end Fishermen fear an Army plan to dump neutralized VX gas in the Delaware Bay will kill fish - and their livelihood.

by Jacqueline L. Urgo
Inquirer Staff Writer

FORTESCUE, N.J. - Perched on the mud flats of the Delaware Bay, this remote village, where there are more fishing boats than houses, could become ground zero for the effects of a chemical so deadly that scientists call it a weapon of mass destruction.

But people in the "Weakfish Capital of the World" aren't scientists. They're fishermen.

"This will just kill the fishing industry here once and for all, no question about it," said Clarence "Bunky" Higbee, whose family has owned a marina here for three generations. "We've weathered a lot of storms, but this would probably be the worst."

The Army wants to get rid of a stockpile of the highly lethal nerve gas VX, which was developed in 1952 as a chemical-warfare agent. The Army would neutralize the VX at an Indiana stockpile and haul up to four million gallons of hydrolysate, a byproduct of the neutralization process, to New Jersey by truck and train.

After further treatment, the hydrolysate would be dumped from the DuPont Chambers Works treatment facility in Deepwater, near the Delaware Memorial Bridge, into the Delaware River.

Government and DuPont officials, in a public relations campaign launched last month, have tried to assure residents that the hydrolysate would contain no detectable VX.

Current technology, however, can only detect levels above 14 parts of VX per billion parts of water, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which hasn't determined what level is harmful to humans or fish.

The threat of real terrorism after the 9/11 attacks prompted the government to plan the disposal of the material from its Midwestern stockpile.

But Higbee and others don't like the sound - even in a "treated wastewater" form - of a lethal chemical flowing into the Delaware Bay.

"She's as temperamental as a newborn baby with colic," Higbee said of the bay where his son captains the Miss Fortescue, one of the dozens of boats in a fleet that takes thousands of tourists and fishermen each year into the bay to fish for weakfish, bluefish and flounder.

"Being downstream from industry and other interference has always been a problem for us here; one thing is always related to another. To think we won't be affected is foolish," Higbee said.

Higbee points to other upsets that have historically wreaked havoc on the entire Delaware Bay shoreline, a region that a decade ago was designated by the Nature Conservancy as one of the "Last Great Places" on the planet, ranking it in environmental importance with Jamaica's Blue Mountains and Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Higbee says people here are worried because they understand the fickleness of the bay.

This is the body of water that brought fishermen to their knees in the 1950s when a mysterious protozoan parasite called MSX killed a thriving oyster industry.

This is a town where a fish called a croaker was king until the
1920s, when the bay seemed to have abruptly sloughed off the noisy drum fish in favor of other species, such as weakfish.

Before that, the bay gave the boot to a lucrative caviar-harvesting industry - a product so prized it was exported to Russian czars - when sturgeon began dying off for unknown reasons.

"Look what happened with the DDT in the '60s. It affected the bald eagles and the fishing here for a long time," said David Morgan, an avid angler who is contemplating the sale of a fishing cottage his wife's family has owned in Fortescue since the 1940s. "If this VX plan goes through, it'll never be the same here. We'll be selling."

Indications are that the Army never used VX on the battlefield because of the danger that the wind could blow the odorless gas back in the direction of troops, according to Karl Harrison, a scientist at Oxford University in England, where the gas was developed in a plant in Wiltshire in 1952.

Newport, Ind., is one of eight U.S. chemical weapons stockpile sites. The Newport site consists solely of bulk containers of VX, which are now in the process of being neutralized at the facility with water and a caustic solution, according to the Army.

Harrison, who has studied VX extensively, says that contact with even a drop of the substance can kill a human.

In a 1998 report in a British scientific journal, Harrison wrote: "If these weapons were launched against a nation, then there would be the possibility of a nuclear counterattack because VX is a weapon of mass destruction that spreads from impact point killing all in its path."

The Army contends that the treated material would be no more harmful than drain cleaner, which is highly corrosive.

The plan to transport the treated VX sparked environmental protests in six states on Thursday. Legislators have for months said they were keeping a close eye on the plan but are waiting for the results of a report due later this month from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on potential hazards.

"There are legitimate concerns by many of our residents and local communities, and I share in them," said U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, a New Jersey Republican and chairman of the House Coast Guard and maritime transportation subcommittee. "This is an important issue that needs to be fully examined to determine the risks associated and must be carefully evaluated with final approval granted by the state before moving forward."

Contact staff writer Jacqueline L. Urgo at 609-823-9629.

Informant: Blue Ridge Mama


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