DuPont Bails Out of Chemical Weapons Disposal Project

In a triumph for New Jersey environmentalists, the DuPont Co. announced today that it is backing out of a U.S. Army plan to dispose of wastewater derived from the nerve agent VX. Although the project had been approved by both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the company decided against participation in the project, fearing various legal and regulatory challenges.

The plan was to transport millions of gallons of the VX wastewater, called hydrolysate, from a Newport, Indiana, weapons depot to Deepwater, N.J., where it would be treated by a DuPont facility and eventually dumped in the Delaware River. Last month, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network joined with a variety of environmental groups to file suit against the Army in U.S. District Court. Citing a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the complaint claimed that the Army had not conducted enough research about the impact of the disposal plan on factors such as groundwater and local marine life. The suit also cited a federal regulation that bars interstate transportation of chemical weapons.

Saying that “common sense has prevailed,” New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine issued a statement thanking DuPont for its decision. “This is a decisive victory for the people of New Jersey. VX nerve agent is one of the world’s most deadly chemical compounds and dumping it in a river never made any sense.”

Nick Fanandakis, vice president and general manager of DuPont Chemical Solutions Enterprise, had this to say: “DuPont has a successful history of working with New Jersey regulators and communities, and we value those relationships. However, during our three-year evaluation of the Newport proposal, it has become increasingly clear to us that the approval process will be lengthy and arduous, even with the supportive conclusions reached by the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in their independent reviews. Therefore, we believe it is in the best interests of New Jersey and DuPont not to proceed.”

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