Article written by Eric Flack for Wave 3 News. Find the original article here.
RICHMOND, KY (WAVE) - There are deadly chemical weapons being housed in Kentucky. They are being kept at a United States Military facility, located about 100 miles from Louisville, and are the same nerve agents allegedly used by the Syrian President to kill 1,400 of his own people.
Chemical weapons have been stored at the Blue Grass Army Depot since the 1940's and the military is working to get rid of them. But the project has been bogged down in delays leaving some Kentucky families living under a cloud of uncertainty.
Tucked away on a 15,000 acre heavily guarded army depot in Madison County, 523 tons of weaponized chemicals are waiting to be destroyed by the U.S. Military. Toxic nerve agents that attack the body, in some cases, suffocating and killing the victim in minutes.
Craig Williams, co-chairman of the governor's Chemical Destruction Citizen Advisory Board has teamed with Senator Mitch McConnell to press the military to eliminate it's chemical stockpile in Kentucky. Something Williams says, should have been done long ago.
"Originally the Army said they would get it done nationally by 1994 for a cost of $1.8 billion," Williams said. "It's now 2013 they've spend about $35 billion. So they're a little behind schedule and a little bit over budget."
Since the 1990's the U.S. Government successfully destroyed chemical weapon stockpiles at seven of its military sites, but arsenals in Kentucky and Colorado remain. And the Blue Grass Army Depot is the only location, housing sarin and VX, the most lethal of toxic agents.
It was sarin that was allegedly used by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a chemical attack on civilians August 21, an incident that led President Obama to threaten air strikes if Assad doesn't hand over his chemical stockpile.
Destroying those weapons could take years. Both in the case of Syria and in Kentucky. The plant being built to neutralize the chemical agents at the Blue Grass Army Depot is only 70 percent complete. And right now, estimates are the chemical weapons housed at there won't be totally eliminated until 2023.
So how big is threat is all this in the meantime? Williams said it's low and that it would take something catastrophic, like an earthquake or multiple lightning strikes, to cause a release.
"With the worst agents, the zone of fatality could reach 35 miles," Williams said, adding loss of life in that worse case scenario would hit hundreds of thousands.
"The probability of that is about the same as me waking up tomorrow with a full head of hair," Williams said.
Still, Williams said FEMA has spent millions of dollars on emergency response plans including warning sirens and alert radios in every home in the event the chemicals ever get airborne.
The Army declined a request this week for a tour of the chemical weapons facility and has yet to respond to a list of questions about the safety of the chemical weapons housed in Kentucky and the delays in destroying them.
Williams said part of what has taken so long is that the nerve agents at Blue Grass Army Depot are all weaponized, meaning it's 523 tons of chemical agent on about 1,000 rockets. That makes the process of dismantling and neutralizing them even more complicated and expensive.
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