A memo released April 10 from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld regarding the deadline for demilitarization is unclear, said Craig Williams, director of the Berea-based Chemical Weapons Working Group.

The CWWG released Thursday the specific schedule projections for each of the active incinerators in Arkansas, Utah, Alabama and Oregon. Although no official completion dates are noted for the Blue Grass Army Depot, Army officials in charge of those sites predict completion in late 2014 or early 2015, Williams said.

The documents released by the CWWG show claim that the first quarter of incineration in Arkansas will be finished by 2016; Utah, first quarter by 2016; Alabama, fourth quarter by 2016; and Oregon, third quarter by 2017. The original projected completion date for all sites, presented to Congress in 1985, was 1994.

“With each new schedule projection, it becomes more and more obvious that incineration is not the mature, robust and reliable technology the Army promised to communities back in the 80s,” Williams said.

He, along with the CWWG, have fought the idea of incineration for years and their efforts have resulted in a pilot operation for the Blue Grass Army Depot. The weapons stored will be destroyed via neutralization and Supercritical Water Oxidation (SCWO), rather than by burning.

“Given the risks associated with incineration and longer storage periods, the Army should be obligated to share accurate information with affected residents,” Williams said. “Instead, local Army spokespeople continue to give out erroneous schedule projections. Just yesterday, an Army spokesperson at the Alabama site declared, after an accident there Monday, that the incinerator is still ‘on track’ to finish its work by 2010. That’s six years sooner than the official projection.”

Similar claims have been made recently at other burn sites, Williams said.

“When Army spokespeople mislead communities about incinerator schedules, residents can only wonder what else they aren’t being told,” he said. “For instance, information about leaks and other safety and environmental violations.”

In March of this year, more than 60 organizations signed a letter requesting specific information be provided to Alabama citizens regarding operations at that incinerator. No formal response has been issued to date, Williams said.

Citizens were successful in demanding alternatives to incineration at four other stockpile sites. Neutralization of Maryland’s stockpile has been completed and Indiana’s stockpile is projected to be neutralized by early 2012. The Kentucky and Colorado neutralization facilities are slated to begin construction later this year.

In addition to the information on schedule, the latest defense documents also estimate the current cost of the disposal program at more than $32 billion. The original cost was projected in 1985 at $1.85 billion.

Ronica Shannon can be reached at rshannon@richmondregister.com or 623-1669, Ext. 234.

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