WASHINGTON – The Army's plan to destroy deadly VX nerve agent in Indiana and truck the byproduct to New Jersey for disposal adequately addresses public health concerns, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.
The CDC said it found the Army's plan "sufficient to address critical issues" such as potential human poisoning, possible treatment and transportation of the neutralized VX byproduct. The report added that the Environmental Protection Agency had concluded the plan had addressed ecological concerns.
Still, New Jersey Reps. Robert Andrews and Frank LoBiondo, who oppose the plan, said the CDC report did not definitively say it was sound.
Andrews said the CDC's conclusions were based on "the rosiest of scenarios, the best-case assumption."
Col. Jesse L. Barber, project manager for the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency's Chemical Stockpile Elimination Project, praised the report.
"We will continue to destroy the nation's chemical stockpile in a manner that is safe to the American public and will not adversely impact the environment," Barber said.
The plan is on hold until the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, finishes a study looking at the entire operation. As part of a broader military bill, the House in May told the GAO to study the plan, preventing the Army from putting it in place before next February.
The Army last year began neutralizing VX nerve agent at Indiana's Newport Chemical Depot. A single drop of the agent can kill.
The project has destroyed about 20 percent of the original stockpile of more than 250,000 gallons of the Cold War-era agent, producing a caustic wastewater called hydrolysate.
The Army is required by a 1997 international treaty to destroy the chemical weapon by 2012. For years, the Army has tried to win approval to ship that byproduct to a DuPont facility in Deepwater, N.J., where it would be treated and then discharged into the Delaware River.
The New Jersey lawmakers pledged to continue their work to keep any byproduct from being trucked to their state. The majority of the state's lawmakers, along with Delaware officials, are opposed, too.
"This is so very serious," said LoBiondo. "Residents are scared out of their wits. We have to thoroughly examine every aspect of this."
"We'll wait for the GAO to complete their review and continue to work with other members of the delegation to fight the federal government's plan to use New Jersey's rivers as a toxic sewer," New Jersey Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez said in a joint statement.