Tuesday, December 5, 2000

Army destroys thousands
of chemical weapons

From Stripes and wire reports

FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii — The Army has destroyed more than 13,000 chemical weapons on Johnston Island in the Pacific Ocean, according to a Pacific Air Forces news release.

The weapons were M23 land mines, each filled with 10 pounds of the nerve agent VX, an odorless, colorless liquid that causes vomiting, difficulty in thinking, nightmares, and involuntary urination and defecation.

The chemical weapons on Johnston Atoll represented about 6 percent of the U.S. stockpile.

More than 100,000 VX landmines were manufactured in the United States in the late 1950s and early 1960s and 13,302 of the weapons were stored on Johnston Island. The island is home to the U.S. military’s facility designed specifically for chemical weapons disposal.

The Johnston Atoll Chemical Agent Disposal System began operations in 1990.

"Over the past 10 years, JACADS has safely destroyed more than 400,000 rockets, projectiles, bombs, mortars ... and mines," said JACADS Project Manager Gary McCloskey.

The Army worked with the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in destroying Johnston’s stockpile of chemical weapons.

The island facility, about 825 miles southwest of Hawaii, is due to be closed in phases by 2002. The Army began storing chemical weapons there in 1971 when it moved them from Okinawa.

The disposal facility was built in the 1980s as a model for a larger chemical weapons destruction program required by Congress in order to comply with the Chemical Weapons Convention. The Army is planning to use eight other chemical weapons disposal facilities in the United States.

The Associated Press and Wayne Specht contributed to this report.