- The Washington Times - Monday, September 1, 2003

ANNISTON, Ala. (AP) — The Army yesterday began burning about 800 gallons of deadly sarin drained from rockets, marking the most dangerous phase of its weapons incinerator use since the process began here Aug. 8.

The burn was expected to be completed around midnight, Army spokesman Mike Abrams said.

Sarin, also known as “GB,” is a nerve agent so deadly that a drop on the skin can kill. The chemical was drained from 900 M55 rockets that had been chopped up and burned since the incinerator began operating Aug. 8.

Forty to 42 gallons of nerve agent residue already had been incinerated at the Anniston Army Depot, but always in small amounts. Yesterday marked the first mass burning of sarin and completed the destruction of the rockets at the Army’s newest weapons incinerator.

Yesterday also was the first time the Army had burned a large amount of nerve agent near a populated area. Emergency planners say some 35,000 people live within nine miles of the incinerator.

The Army’s other incinerators are in more remote locations: Johnston Atoll in the Pacific Ocean and in the desert near Tooele, Utah. Another incinerator is being tested at Pine Bluff Arsenal near Pine Bluff, Ark., a city of about 55,000, and is expected to begin burning chemical weapons late next year.

Last week, officials in Anniston halted operations for two days to check the incinerator’s alarm system after two false alarms and an alarm when a small amount of GB vapor was detected in a room containing a secondary burner.

Mr. Abrams said there was no danger to the community or incinerator workers.

“It was at all times under engineering controls and there was no requirement to alert any emergency management agency office,” Mr. Abrams said.

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