On this day in Alabama history: Army disclosed chemical weapons stockpiles

On this day in Alabama history: Army disclosed chemical weapons stockpiles
The Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal Facility at the Anniston Army Depot in Calhoun County has been the cause of considerable controversy stemming from human health and environmental pollution issues. (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, courtesy of The Birmingham News)

January 23, 1996

In 1986, Congress ordered the Army to destroy its chemical weapons. But it took a decade for the Army to publicly disclose precisely the amount of materials and the locations of its secret stockpiles at eight sites across the country and on Johnston Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. Among them was Anniston Army Depot, where 2,250 tons of mustard and nerve agents were contained in more than 661,000 weapons, some dating back to World War II. Anniston residents were already aware that chemical weapons were located at the Depot – but not how much. In 1981 the Army acknowledged that some chemical weapons at the site were leaking, which increased public calls for their removal or destruction. Maj. Gen. Robert Orton told a Pentagon news conference on Jan. 23, 1996, that providing the public with more details about the weapons would help expedite efforts to get environmental approvals to incinerate them. But it wasn’t until August 2003, amid some community opposition, that the Army began to destroy the weapons at the Anniston facility. Eight years later, in September 2011, the Army announced that it had completed destruction of the chemical weapons stockpile in Anniston. The Army looked at possible uses for the multibillion-dollar incinerator after the stockpile was destroyed, but ultimately decided to scrap it. It cost more than $300 million to dismantle the furnace at Anniston, on top of the $2.4 billion it cost taxpayers to build and operate it, according to the Associated Press.

Read more at Encyclopedia of Alabama or at the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center

For more on Alabama’s Bicentennial, visit Alabama 200.

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