CDPHE v U.S Army (Again)

Big surprise.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment’s (CDPHE) Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in April to compel the U.S. Army to comply with standards set by Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), commonly known as Superfund.  There are “four claims for relief” that range from lack of dewatering of the Shell Trenches to demanding the Army provide a plan concerning surface water standards for former Basin E.

A copy of the lawsuit is located here: RMA_19cv1105_CDPHE sues Army_April2019

Deep-Well Injection

A newish CRS report titles Human-Induced Earthquakes from Deep-Well Injection briefly discusses the Army Chemical Corps decision to dispose of its wastes through deep-well injection. The CRS report describes the process, that lead to

an M 4.8 earthquake that struck northeast Denver, on August 9, 1967 was generally accepted as the largest recorded human-induced earthquake in the United States. The M 4.8 earthquake was part of a series of earthquakes that began within several months of the 1961 start of deep-well injection of hazardous chemicals produced at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal defense plant. The earthquakes continued after injection ceased in February 1966.21 The disposal well was drilled through the flat-lying sedimentary rocks into the underlying older crystalline rocks more than 12,000 feet deep, and injection rates varied from 2 million gallons per month to as much as 5.5 million gallons per month.

For additional background, see the original report on deep-well injection (posted below) and of course, that historical treasure, The Blue Book.


The Devil’s Bargain

I recently came across this short film titled The Devil’s Bargain created by students whose school is in proximity to RMA:


The National Contingency Plan

Confusing letters between the RMA Subcommittee and the EPA on 10 x -6 risk and Superfund.

Readers are advised to scan over 40 CFR 300 before reading our letters; our assumption was that cleanup standards/cancer risk for RMA would follow 10 x -6 as outlined in the National Contingency Plan, not 10 x -4 as applied to the Arsenal and in many CERCLA cleanups.

first letter | EPA response | SC response…then we gave up.

Lots of RMA History & Documents

History, lots of history…

  • The Blue Book (Parts 1 and 3 not included).
  • CDPHE [1995] Citizen Health Summary.
  • CDPHE press release on the 10th Circuit decision.
  • Chemical Agent Program History [no author – a contractor doc?].
  • City and County of Denver comments on the Onpost proposed plan.
  • Colorado Dept. of Health [1975], Chemicals & Spills.
  • Colorado Dept. of Health [1993], Concerns, Offpost Proposed Plan.
  • Conceptual_Agreement, Sierra Club comments, [1995].
  • Corrective Action Management Unit, Sierra Club comments to CDPHE, [1996]: The Arsenal was one of the first federal facilities to reinvent cleanup via the CAMU. It is my understanding the original intent of the CAMU was to provide a framework for the development and use of alternative and innovative technologies by allowing flexibility in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Land Disposal Rule (LDRs). But at one time, the use of CAMU subverted the LDRs rule by allowing untreated dioxin laden waste landfilled without treatment. This capricious misapplication of the rule is contrary to the law, and was not the intent of Congress, the EPA and the Colorado Hazardous Waste Commission which promulgated LDRs. EPA changed requirements in 2002 [see 3.3 of this EPA doc].
  • Department of the Army [1970], Review and Analysis.
  • Draft EIS, USFWS wildlife refuge, Sierra Club comments to USFWS [1995].
  • Daigle v. Shell Oil.

RMA & Shell Oil

Perhaps the most controversial party to RMA cleanup, on April 30, 1952, Shell Oil purchased Julius Hyman & Company, which manufactured “high-potency insecticides.” Hyman officially became integrated into Shell on January 1, 1955 [see Kendall Beaton’s Enterprise in Oil: A History of Shell in the United States, Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1957].

A few scanned files:

The Puzzling Case of the NSCMP and RMA

In 2000, a press release was drafted from us gals in Sierra Club and the Chem Weapons Working Group (CWWG ) asking the Army to consider alternate means of disposing of sarin bomblets. At the time, the Army was using open detonate “technology” for dealing with potentially unstable materiel, setting off the bomblets in the Arsenal acreage. While we understood the volatility of these weapons and urgency of disposal, open air detontation of Sarin bomblets compromised air quality, public health, and the safety of neighborhoods surrounding RMA.

After much discussion between Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE), Army, and the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency’s Non-Stockpile Chemical Materiel Project (NSCMP), the Explosive Device System (EDS) was brought to the Arsenal from its testbed in Porton Down, UK, as an alternative technology to replace open detonation of bomblets and crude air and weather monitoring.

A huge part of the EDS story involves the NSCMP in providing me with an on the ground education in understanding programmatic authority and other issues involved in using the EDS at RMA. Below are behind the scenes conversations between the CDPHE and myself about the bomblets, NSCMP authority, and the EDS:

my original email | CDPHE response EDS | additional EDS discussion

Also relevant to the EDS discussion is the NSCMP’s Survey and Analysis Report, (2nd ed.); note the section on the Arsenal, but yet the NSCMP’s role was relegated to observer status in Arsenal cleanup. This was of constant amazement (and consternation) to many citizens who served on the Arsenal’s Restoration Advisory Board and the Site Specific Advisory Board. The existence of this report – issued BEFORE the Arsenal’s Record of Decision – would have influenced a better informed cleanup and indeed strengthened the programmatic authority of the NSCMP in working on other nonstockpile sites throughout the country. The history of NSCMP participation on former chem weapons sites remains compelling case study into (I think) DoD, and specifically, Army culture.

Wildlife [exposure & biomonitoring] and RMA

Worker Health & Safety

Very little information has been released by the Army on the health of former Rocky Mountain Arsenal workers. I wondered about this…but then I began to study secrecy. Late one September night as I was reading Chapter 13 of the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments, my eye caught the following paragraph and subsequent footnote(s) [emphasis-added]:

In the case of research related to chemical and biological warfare, the military issued a secret edict that published articles be cleansed of any reference to military purpose. [70] In many cases the opportunity to obscure the full purpose of research by careful wording was obvious.

As a DOD document put it, “the term ‘radiobiology’ is so flexible semantically that, depending upon the investigator’s point of view, any project could be classified as ‘clinical’ or ‘basic’ or ‘nuclear weapons effects.’ ” [71]

Footnotes to the above quote:

70. W. G. Lalor, Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy (Ret.), Secretary, Joint Chiefs of Staff, to Chief of Staff, U.S. Army et al., 3 September 1952 (“Security Measures on Chemical Warfare and Biological Warfare”) (ACHRE No. NARA-012495-A), 2. In the memo to the service chiefs of staff, the Joint Chiefs decreed that “responsible agencies” should “[e]nsure, insofar as practicable, that all published articles stemming from the BW [biological warfare] or CW [chemical warfare] research and development programs are disassociated from anything which might connect them with U.S. military endeavor.

71. Office of the Director of Defense Research and Engineering, Thirtieth Joint Medical Research Conference, minutes of 8 January 1964 (ACHRE No. DOD-062994-A), 3.

` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` `

In a previous work, I stressed that bureaucratic language is essentially linked to power; language, coupled with outright omissions of information,  can be used to  conceal  information.  By applying the broad category of “radiobiology” or  “cleansing” the literature of any reference to the military experimentation or projects, the military undermined the time-honored practice of scientific peer review as well as obfuscated informed consent of volunteers and the public’s right to know of the military’s [covert] contribution to the research literature.

This manipulation of language – not an uncommon occurrence as a technique of secrecy keeping – jeopardizes historical understanding and sorely tarnishes public confidence in government research. This situation calls to [my] mind sociologist Max Weber’s observation in Economy and Society, where Max asks

“…how can there be any guarantee that any powers will remain which can check and effectively control the influence of this stratum? How will democracy even in this limited sense be possible at all?”

With this in mind, consider the following:

Look over the Department of the Army, RMA Review and Analysis, 4th Quarter 1970, a doc I received under FOIA. The doc mentions demil and two projects: Project GEMS and Project LEACHE [Long Term Effects Anticholinesterase.] There is no mention of informed consent on the 148 “exposed personnel.” I wonder: were the workers mentioned in the LEACHE study the “industrial workers” of the Holmes and Metcalf study (below)?

The Metcalf and Holmes study, (June 23, 1969, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences), which disingenuously characterizes the study as “industrial and agricultural workers” exposed to pesticides. RMA [chemical weapons] workers are a component of the study cryptically indicated by “RMA” (circled) printed on Table 1.

At the January 26, 2000 EPA [Bob Martin] Ombudsman’s hearing on RMA, Dr. Robert McFarland testified to treating Sarin-exposed workers at Colorado General Hospital during the late 1950s while a resident. The medical school (University of Colorado), McFarland said, was doing a Army funded study on an antidote to Sarin exposure using 2PAM, or pyridine 2-aldoxime; this antidote was investigated as an alternative to the traditionally used atropine in cases of Sarin poisoning. Dr. McFarland reported the physicians who administered the study were ordered by their dean to participate as the medical school “was so hard up for money after World War II we had to take any study we could get.” [Thanks to Dr. McFarland for providing this document].

Miscellaneous McFarland correspondence on RMA worker exposure studies were a “cover” for testing a Sarin antidote, 2-PAM.  Workers eventually sued the University of Colorado.

Former RMA worker Ray Laughbridge tells his story in Denver magazine September, 1976. Note: Dr. Joseph Holmes of the Metcalf and Holmes study worked for the Army Chemical Service.

Women & RMA

Some interesting historical things from my files; At its peak, the Arsenal employed 3,100 civilians, including WAC officers assigned to do war work.