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CDC criticizes US plan to destroy nerve agent

Says byproduct may retain traces

WASHINGTON -- The US Army's plan to destroy VX nerve agent stockpiled in Indiana and ship the chemical byproduct to New Jersey to be dumped in the Delaware River may not completely remove all traces of the deadly chemical, the government says.

The plan ''has raised concerns and questions about potential impacts on public health and the environment," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said yesterday.

US Representative Robert Andrews, Democrat of New Jersey, one of several lawmakers critical of the plan, urged the Army to abandon its proposal.

The Army will destroy the VX nerve agent stockpiled at the Newport Chemical Depot in western Indiana and then store the byproduct there until a decision is made on how to treat and dispose of it. The Army expects the 1,269 tons of VX to be destroyed in 2½ years.

The VX -- a liquid that can kill a healthy adult male with a single pinpoint droplet -- has been stockpiled at the depot since it was created in the 1960s.

The VX neutralization at the depot is expected to result in 4 million gallons of a chemical byproduct called hydrolysate, which would require additional treatment at DuPont's Chambers Works plant in Deepwater, N.J., before it is dumped into the Delaware River.

The CDC report is critical in several areas, including the possibility of traces of VX still being present in the byproduct that would not be harmful to humans but could harm fish. There was no information showing that the DuPont plant is capable of treating traces of VX nerve agent or other compounds in the chemical byproduct, the CDC said.

The report does say it is safe for the Army to ship the byproduct via tanker trucks from Indiana to New Jersey. Several congressmen and senators from New Jersey and Delaware asked the agency last year to study the Army's plan.

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