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Army Postpones Chemical Disposal

September 20, 2002

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ANNISTON, Ala. (AP) _ The Army has postponed plans to begin burning Cold War-era chemical weapons at its new incinerator next month, citing new objections from state environmental officials.

The Army’s spokesman for the project, Mike Abrams, said burning will probably not begin until after Jan. 1.

The Army had planned to begin destroying 2,254 tons of deadly Cold War-era chemical weapons at the Anniston Army Depot in late October.

But the state Department of Environmental Management asked for a delay Sept. 12, complaining that the Army’s laboratory burn tests were not done according to the procedure approved by the agency.

Abrams said the tests will be redone to meet the state’s objections.

The announcement Friday came just hours after The Birmingham News reported that Army officials exchanged e-mails outlining a plan to deflect criticism of the incinerator by embarrassing local officials over their stand on emergency response training.

But Abrams said the newspaper’s report did not influence the timing of the announcement.

In the Pentagon e-mails, the officials said they would challenge Alabama to beef up its emergency response training and then publicize the state’s refusal. Local officials object to holding training exercises without the protective suits and other equipment they have demanded.

Alabama officials who read the e-mails reacted angrily.

``It is alarming, to say the least, that there are people more interested in building a record to cover their own butts than the safety of the people of Alabama,″ Gov. Don Siegelman told the News.

The Army did not immediately answer questions by The Associated Press about the e-mails.

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