A plan to incinerate chemical weapons at the Tooele Army Depot in western Utah just lost a longtime champion: the Tooele County Commission. Although the county's economy depends heavily on the military, commissioners revoked earlier approval of the project, saying adequate safety measures weren't yet in place.


Some 50 residents and county officials expressed similar fears. They say the federal government hasn't provided the proper training or equipment to deal with an accident at the Tooele Chemical Agent Facility, where the U.S. Army plans to burn 20 million pounds of weapons such as nerve and mustard gas over a six-year period (HCN, 10/31/94). That amounts to roughly 44 percent of the nation's chemical stockpile.


Commissioners also complained about the Army's arrogance. In a letter to the Utah Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste, they said a visiting Army colonel told county workers that the Army will do whatever it wants and "there is not a damn thing that they (emergency workers) could say or do that would make a difference."


The Army has been trying to get the necessary permits to burn the weapons for six years. It needs to get the Tooele incinerator, plus seven others, up and running by 2004. That's the date set by Congress to dispose of all the nation's chemical weapons, according to a bilateral agreement with the former Soviet Union.


* Taylor Syphus