By Gregory MahallSeptember 25, 2008
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - A U.S. District Court Judge ruled Monday in favor of the Army and dismissed on all counts a case seeking to halt shipments of caustic waste water created by the destruction of the nerve agent VX at an Army plant in Indiana to a treatment facility in Texas.
The ruling issued by Chief Judge Larry J. McKinney of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana in Indianapolis, was in favor of the Army and granted the Army's motion for summary judgment. This ruling confirmed the Army's position that the litigation, initiated by a collection of plaintiffs on May 8, 2007, raised no genuine issues to be tried. This followed an earlier court decision that denied a motion for a preliminary injunction to halt ongoing shipments of the waste water in an August 3, 2007 ruling.
"Judge McKinney's ruling confirms, once again, that safety is and remains the cornerstone of the Army's chemical weapons disposal program," said Conrad F. Whyne, director of the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency. "This ruling and summary judgment should demonstrate that the Army and its many partners in this program - Parsons, Veolia Environmental Services and Tri-State Motor Transit - conduct the program with every attention paid to safeguarding our workers, our communities and our environment."
Judge McKinney ruled in the Army's favor on all counts.
The court ruled that the caustic waste water, known as hydrolysate, is a hazardous waste, not a munition or chemical agent, and that the Army adequately considered the other risks inherent in the transportation of the wastes to Texas for ultimate disposal.
"Judge McKinney's ruling validates what we have said all along, that this was our best disposal option for the Newport hydrolysate and that the disposal option was safe," said Col. Robert B. Billington, Program Manager for Chemical Stockpile Elimination at CMA.
"The court's ruling shows, beyond a doubt, that our collective efforts take seriously our mission to destroy this material in a safe manner that protects all," Whyne continued. "When the facts are presented as they were in Judge McKinney's court room last July, it becomes readily evident that the Army has dedicated the resources, time and personnel required to accomplish our mission safely.
"This ruling dispels claims to the contrary and once again shows that the Army is engaged in our national imperative to eliminate our stockpile while balancing many intricate issues, of which safety is key and will never be compromised."
CMA began shipping the Newport hydrolysate to Veolia Environmental Services in Port Arthur, Texas in April 2007. In June, the Army voluntarily stopped shipments pending the July hearing in Judge McKinney's court. Judge McKinney first ruled against the plaintiffs in August and the Army resumed hydrolysate shipments shortly thereafter. Shipments have been ongoing ever since and have been done without incident. CMA eliminated the Newport stockpile on August 8, 2008 and is currently in the process of cleaning the disposal facility and dismantling it. Once closed, the facility and the Newport Chemical Depot will be closed under the federal Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process.
The judge's decision can be read in full on the U.S. Army Chemical Material Agency's Web site: U.S. District Court Summary Judgment Ruling