- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 22, 2005

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) — The Army is investigating a report that it dumped millions of pounds of chemical weapons and munitions into the ocean, Sen. John W. Warner’s office said.

“The Army indicated it feels this is a problem, and this is something they are working on,” Warner spokesman John Ullyot said. “The Army is looking into the problem aggressively.”

Mr. Warner, Virginia Republican, is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

An investigation by the Daily Press of Newport News revealed that the Army dumped at least 64 million pounds of chemical weapons — and 400,000 chemical-filled bombs, rockets and land mines — off the coast of at least 11 states from 1945 to 1970.

Three artillery shells filled with mustard gas were dredged up by clammers from about 130 feet of water about 20 miles off New Jersey last summer. They were pulled from an undocumented dump zone that might have been created after World War I.

Three Air Force bomb-disposal technicians were burned when dismantling one of the shells, the newspaper reported.

Army representatives met with Mr. Warner’s staff last week to assure the senator that the Army has taken steps to address the long-ignored issue of chemical weapons being dumped into the ocean.

Those steps included the installation of the monitoring devices off the New Jersey coast.

A search of all surviving Army ocean-dumping records has been ordered.

The Army intends to designate soon an agency to oversee the service’s response to calls from across the country that the Army inspect — and possibly clean up — the offshore chemical-weapon dumps it had created.

At last week’s meeting, Mr. Warner’s staff demanded timely progress reports from the Army, Mr. Ullyot said.

“The Army is taking it seriously,” he said. “We’ll stay on top of the issue.”

Rep. Robert E. Andrews, New Jersey Democrat, has threatened hearings if the Army can’t say where all its chemical-weapon dumps are, as well as provide proof that they won’t leak.

He was joined last week by Rep. Ed Case, Hawaii Democrat and a member of the House Unexploded Ordnance Caucus.

“The big picture here is the low allocation of priority by the Department of Defense to cleaning up after itself, when compared against the entire defense budget,” Mr. Case told the Honolulu Advertiser.

“This crucial issue — of inadequate military attention to cleaning up after itself — is not, of course, new to Hawaii or our country. … I will be addressing collective action with the caucus members,” he said.

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