During World War II and the Cold War, the U.S. Army created over thirty thousand tons of chemical weapons, filled with lethal nerve and mustard agents. Fortunately these weapons were never used on political ‘enemies.’ However, the weapons pose a serious health and safety threat to communities living near military bases where they are stored.
One of these bases is the Blue Grass Army Depot in Richmond, Kentucky.
When the Army proposed to incinerate the weapons, local residents, parents and others were outraged and concerned about the impacts of toxic incinerator emissions on our health and the environment.
The Kentucky Environmental Foundation formed the Chemical Weapons Working Group (CWWG) in 1991 as a coalition of residents concerned about building chemical weapons incinerators at the stockpile sites in eight locations in the continental U.S. and one site on an island in the Pacific. Through dedicated grassroots organizing, policy development and advocacy, the CWWG succeeded in passing groundbreaking federal legislation that mandated the research and implementation of safer non-incineration weapons disposal technologies, which were/are being used at four sites, including Kentucky. Nationally and in Kentucky, the CWWG has excelled in bringing together people from all social and political persuasions and many diverse perspectives for consensus on safe solutions to the U.S. chemical weapons legacy.
Currently, a non-incineration technology is under construction in Kentucky with the oversight from a community-based group called the Chemical Destruction Community Advisory Board, chaired by CWWG Director Craig Williams. The board has regular meetings that are open to the public.
The Chemical Weapons Working Group advocated for U.S. ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) since its inception, and continues to track U.S. adherence to the treaty. CWWG Director Craig Williams has been privileged to attend four gatherings of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) at its headquarters in The Hague. These meetings draw visitors and activists from all over the world.
April 9, 2013
The Kentucky Co-chair of the Chemical Weapons Destruction Advisory Board, Craig Williams, will be attending the Chemical Weapons Convention meeting this week at the invitation and courtesy of Mikhail Gorbachev’s Green Cross International and Global Green USA.
This will be the second trip to the international gathering of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) by Williams, who attended previously in November 2011. At that time the OPCW reached the critical decision to provide additional time for the U.S. to complete its disposal efforts without sanctions. Kentucky, being the last U.S. site scheduled for completion, is a highly visible participant within the Organization.
At this week’s meeting, participants will undertake a review of the operation of the Chemical Weapons Convention taking into account any relevant scientific and technological developments: the role of the Chemical Weapons Convention in enhancing international peace and security and in achieving its objectives by ensuring the universality of the Chemical Weapons Convention.
As part of the Review the current status at the Blue Grass project will be presented by Williams at a special session entitled “Legacy Issues of Chemical Weapon”, chaired by Ambassador Sergey Batsanov, Director, Geneva Office, Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs.
“This is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate to the 188 member nations to the Treaty the community support and cooperative effort between the government, the contractor and the citizenry here in Kentucky,” said Williams. “It is important that confidence continues to be built internationally on the progress being made here towards our disposal objectives.”
The conference also included UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speaking on the Syrian situation.