U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski introduced legislation yesterday that would delay construction of an incinerator to burn a stockpile of the Army's aging mustard agent at Aberdeen Proving Ground until more studies are done and alternative technologies considered.
The Maryland Democrat introduced the legislation because of concerns about emissions from the incinerator -- scheduled for construction in 1995 -- voiced by residents near the Harford County base and across the Chesapeake Bay in Kent County.
"I think we all agree that the Army must destroy its outdated and excessive amount of chemical agents and that this must be done responsibly," Ms. Mikulski said.
"However, disposal of these weapons at Aberdeen must not commence until we can be sure that the thousands of people and their families who live near the proposed incinerator will not be adversely affected," she said.
As part of its $7.9 billion chemical demilitarization program, the Army is scheduled in July to begin burning mustard agent, a liquid that causes severe blistering, at its first full-scale incinerator on Johnston Atoll, a deserted island 750 miles southwest of Hawaii.
Results from those tests should be available and sent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency within 90 days of the burning, said Marilyn J. Tischbin, spokeswoman for the Army's chemical demilitarization program.
Before construction at Aberdeen begins, Ms. Mikulski wants a full study of those test results and consideration of a report on alternatives to incineration.