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Review of International Technologies for Destruction of Recovered Chemical Warfare Materiel 2 Issues Bearing on Sites Containing Large Amounts of Buried Chemical Weapons Materiel INTRODUCTION Currently, the primary mission of the Non-Stockpile Chemical Materiel Project (NSCMP) includes the destruction of chemical warfare materiel (CWM) already recovered and not included in the stockpile (U.S. Army, 2004a). However, there are several large CWM burial sites within the United States. Congress has mandated that DOD prioritize the cleanup of munition sites (including those that contain buried CWM) and establish a timetable for implementing investigation, evaluation, and cleanup of these sites. As a result, in the near future, DOD will evaluate buried CWM sites. The decision on whether to remove buried CWM at a particular site or contain it in place depends on the degree of risk presented by the buried CWM, the feasibility and cost of such efforts, and whether Congress imposes a direct statutory mandate. If a decision were to be made to remove buried CWM from the ground at such large sites, the recovered CWM would have to be destroyed. This would in essence represent a new DOD cleanup initiative. However, regardless of the ultimate remedy selected, these sites must be investigated and evaluated to determine whether removal is appropriate pursuant to existing DOD mandated programs. As a result, the evaluation of most of the international technologies reviewed in this report was carried out with buried CWM in mind, potentially from these large sites. To understand the context in which the CWM destruction technologies will be evaluated, this chapter briefly summarizes the regulatory framework in the United States for CWM recovery and destruction, reviews several key issues pertaining to CWM recovery and destruction, and addresses public involvement. U.S. REGULATORY FRAMEWORK GOVERNING BURIED CWM In the United States, the recovery and destruction of buried CWM is governed by overarching hazardous waste laws (U.S. Army, 2001) and DOD munition cleanup programs (P.L. 107-107; U.S. Army, 2001, 2003a, p. 6;1 Federal Register, 20052). DOD conducts munitions responses and other hazardous waste cleanups in accordance with the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) (Federal Register, 2005; U.S. Army 2004b).3 In some cases, permits or other kinds of regulatory approvals under CERCLA, RCRA, or other environmental laws would be needed. Generally, and in accordance with CERCLA and RCRA, federal and state environmental regulatory agencies select a remedy after balancing the degree of protection of human health and the environment with other factors, such as long-term effectiveness, permanence, toxicology, mobility, volume reduction through treatment, short-term effectiveness, and the preferences of the public (EPA, 1997). Regardless of whether a CERCLA or RCRA cleanup program applies to buried CWM or whether permits or other forms of approval are required, regulatory acceptance of the chosen approach is legally necessary, and public acceptance must by law be considered in the regulatory decision making. However, in a democratic society, public acceptance is important and generally necessary over the long term as a practical matter. For example, despite the fact that many experts have concluded that incineration is safe and consistent with the regulatory requirements applicable to industrial chemicals, Congress directed the Army to evaluate disposal methods other than incineration. Similarly, public 1 This document requires the Army to manage its cleanup program “under unified vision and overarching strategy to remedy [any] inefficient organizational divide.” 2 This document explains that CWM is included in the definition of munitions. 3 Superfund is the commonly used term for the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, 42 U.S.C., 9601 et seq.), Executive Order (E.O.) 12580, Superfund Implementation (January 23, 1986), and E.O. 13016 Superfund Amendments (August 28, 1996).
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Review of International Technologies for Destruction of Recovered Chemical Warfare Materiel concern may be a factor in the decision making of regulators and even DOD. In summary, community members can influence and sometimes take actions that lead to remedial alternatives they oppose being rejected, but they do not have the authority to veto otherwise scientifically acceptable alternatives. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2002 required DOD to develop a comprehensive plan for addressing the remediation of such munitions at defense sites and to assess the funding required and the period of time over which such funding will be required (P.L. 107-107; Federal Register, 2003). DOD’s Munitions Response Site Prioritization Protocol is designed to assign priority to each site based on its overall criteria. Part of the prioritization methodology considers the amount of CWM that may be contained in the munition site, its likelihood of dispersal, and the condition of the munition (Federal Register, 2005). As a result, the DOD munition sites that contain significant amounts of CWM will typically be ranked higher than a site without CWM. In addition, state and local pressures may lead to increased emphasis at some sites. Given the nature of the CWM and the public’s concern about these items, as a practical matter, once CWM is discovered in residential areas or at any location not controlled by the federal government, it is likely to be deemed a significant risk to human health pursuant to federal or state environmental statutory authorities. KEY ISSUES PERTAINING TO CWM RECOVERY AND DESTRUCTION Rate of Munitions Recovery and Destruction The selection of destruction and disposal technology to be used in the future may depend, in part, on the volume and rate at which buried CWM are recovered. For example, if a small number of buried CWM are recovered each year, the existing NSCMP capabilities (e.g., the rapid response system and the explosive destruction system) might be sufficient. However, if Congress or federal or state environmental regulators were to require DOD to remove and destroy a large number of buried CWM, or if DOD’s comprehensive munitions cleanup plan adopted a policy of removing and destroying buried CWM as rapidly as possible, technologies with high throughput rates would be preferable. Criteria for Determining Whether Buried CWM Are Recovered DOD’s prioritization methodology determines the sequence in which munition sites should be investigated and evaluated, not whether or what type of remedial action will be taken at any given site. For example, a site could have a high priority, but the remedy selected might be “leave in place with long-term stewardship.” The decision on whether to contain in place or remove and treat buried CWM is governed by the same remedy selection criteria that govern hazardous waste sites.4 Not all remedial actions involve excavation and treatment. Generally, engineering controls, such as containment, and restrictions on use and access, as well as continued monitoring, can be used for waste that poses a relatively low long-term threat or where treatment is impracticable.5 For example, cumulatively, through most of FY 2002, EPA selected containment in 43 percent of the CERCLA source control Records of Decision (EPA, 2004). Thus, if the history of hazardous waste cleanup is a guide, there are likely to be circumstances where containment in place of buried CWM is chosen over recovery and treatment of the buried CWM. However, at sites where the initial decision is to leave CWM in place (with continued monitoring and institutional controls), the contents of buried CWM sites could be removed in the future if the existing site remedy is found not to be protective. Direct Treatment Versus Storage of RCWM RCWM differs from hazardous waste and other military munitions in one significant respectthe destruction of RCWM must be verified by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) implementation body (just as the destruction of all CWM must be verified). The purpose of these verification provisions is to confirm, through on-site inspection, the accuracy of the relevant declarations; to ensure secure storage where storage is used; and to confirm that the CWM has been destroyed (Appendix IV (D)(37 and 50) of the CWC). Therefore, although storage may facilitate verification, there is nothing in the treaty or in the treaty implementation practice per se that requires storage as long as the CWC implementing body can adequately verify the destruction.6 Storage of RCWM from the large burial sites creates several challenges, including constructing interim holding facilities and providing the associated monitoring and security. In addition, regulatory requirements concerning storage times for hazardous waste may be difficult to comply with in the event that treatment and disposal operations are delayed due to technical or regulatory problems. More important, storage may involve increased risk. 4 See generally National Contingency Plan, 40 CFR 300, 1990, as amended. The federal RCRA corrective action program uses essentially the same remedy selection criteria as required by Superfund. The hazardous waste cleanup programs of individual states often require the consideration of factors similar to those specified in Superfund. Some states have specified more stringent cleanup criteria and/or goals than the EPA (NRC, 1994). 5 40 CFR 300.430(a)(1)(iii)(A-F)). Available online at <http://www.epa.gov/oilspill/pdfs/40cfr300.pdf>. 6 Meeting between representatives of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and members of the committee at The Hague, The Netherlands, January 18, 2006.
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Review of International Technologies for Destruction of Recovered Chemical Warfare Materiel According to the U.S. Army, there is probably sufficient flexibility in the CWC to devise adequate verification without necessitating storage, as long as such a verification plan is submitted to and approved by the CWC implementation group.7 There is a precedent whereby a CWC oversight body permitted a nation to remove munitions from the ground and move it directly to destruction.8 Of course, RCRA regulations require that hazardous waste must be adequately characterized prior to treatment, so some delay may be necessary while that is done. However, it would be logical for the U.S. Army, when possible, to use a process in which the munition is removed from the burial site, examined to determine whether it contains (or could contain) agent, and then destroyed immediately without intermediate storage. This process would minimize handling and eliminate the risk associated with storing potentially deteriorated muni-tions. The committee believes, therefore, that the U.S. Army could benefit from taking all possible steps to minimize the number of times munitions recovered from CWM burial sites are moved. As a general rule, safety is maximized through minimizing the handling of deteriorated non-stockpile CWM. CWM recovered from the burial sites is likely to be in a deteriorated condition. This increases the likelihood of encountering leaking munitions and explosive instability due to the deterioration of explosive and propellant stabilizers, as well as potential contamination of explosives with toxic chemical agents or other contaminants. For these reasons, CWM items recovered from burial sites are likely to be more prone to leaking and explosive instability than CWM that has been stored under controlled conditions as part of the CWM stockpile. This makes it more hazardous to handle CWM recovered from burial sites than CWM from the stockpile program. The committee believes a serious accident (a major leak or accidental detonation) would be most likely to occur during the handling and transportation of deteriorated CWM contained in the large burial sites. Therefore, safety is maximized if the handling of the RCWM is minimized. A remove-and-dispose approach will require that the CWM be removed from the large burial site no faster than it can be characterized and disposed of. The time it takes to characterize and dispose of the CWM will, therefore, determine the rate at which it can be removed from the large burial site. However, because many of the objects that will be removed from large burial sites will probably have been emptied of their contents prior to being placed in the burial pits, or because many may have leaked after placement in the pits and prior to their removal, they may not require much treatment before disposal. This is a logical surmise because experience from other sites containing large amounts of non-stockpile CWM, such as Pine Bluff Arsenal, indicates that only between 10 percent and 25 percent of the CWM munitions and containers removed from the sites actually contain chemical agent.9 This is likely to greatly reduce the need for CWM disposal for the objects removed from the large burial sites and would allow the removal of objects from the burial sites to proceed at a relatively rapid pace. Of course, the situation could change based on specific characterization data for the large burial sites. PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT One of the CERCLA and RCRA remedy selection factors noted earlier is community acceptance. It is, however, only a modifying factor. Community members can influence and sometimes take actions that lead to the rejection of remedial alternatives that they oppose, but they do not have the authority to veto otherwise scientifically acceptable alterna-tives.10 There are also additional, more formal activities associated with federal facility restoration activities, such as funding of restoration site advisory boards composed of local citizens. The activist public—consisting of local community organizations and national environmental coalitions—has played an important role in the selection of U.S. treatment technologies for CWM. Through the formal public involvement processes built into federal and state environmental statutes, litigation, and political action, citizens have influenced and delayed the deployment of technologies. Thus, an effective public involvement program is an essential component of any new strategy for the destruction of any type of CWM. The NSCMP’s public involvement program has for several years served as a key element of mission success (NRC, 2004). An effective public involvement approach has three components (NRC, 2002, 2004): Early and continuing provision of information to the public; Outreach, or opening channels of communication to allow the public to articulate its values, concerns, and needs; and Involvement, or providing mechanisms that engage members of the public and allow them to provide input and influence agency decisions. The U.S. Army’s NSCMP has implemented a national non-stockpile public outreach program, which includes distributing the NSCMP semiannual newsletter to interested 7 Discussion between William R. Brankowitz, PMNSCMP, and the committee, Washington, D.C., November 29-30, 2005. 8 Meeting between representatives of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and members of the committee at The Hague, The Netherlands, January 18, 2006. 9 Conversation between William Brankowitz, NSCMP, and the committee on November 29, 2005. 10 40 CFR 300.430 (f)(1)(i)(C). Available online at <http://www.epa.gov/oilspill/pdfs/40cfr300.pdf>.
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Review of International Technologies for Destruction of Recovered Chemical Warfare Materiel parties throughout the nation, maintaining the NSCMP information repositories in 39 states and the District of Columbia, and maintaining the NSCMP Web site.11 More importantly, it established the Non-Stockpile Core Group, a panel of community and environmental representatives plus state and federal officials. The Core Group, facilitated by the Keystone Center, provides regular comments to NSCMP on important components of the program (U.S. Army, 2004a). In addition, NSCMP has worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Army installations to conduct community meetings, such as occurred at Pine Bluff, Arkansas (NRC, 2002, 2004); to present briefings at restoration advisory board meetings, including at Spring Valley in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Army, 2003b); and to organize open house sessions, such as in Dover, Delaware (Merriweather, 2004). Through such activities, the NSCMP has incorporated public concerns into its decisions and, in general, earned widespread activist support for its approach, particularly the use of mobile, nonincineration treatment systems such as the EDS and the RRS (CWWG, 2000). In previous reports (NRC, 2002, 2004), National Research Council committees found that the NSCMP’s success in working with the public derives in large part from its willingness to consider the suggestions made by public stakeholders at both local and national venues. FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS The committee’s review of buried CWM sites suggests several findings and recommended actions that may assist the Army in implementing the assessment and remediation of buried CWM. Finding 2-1a. One of the factors to be considered in determining the appropriate remedy for an individual site is the short-term risk (e.g., the increased safety risk of handling accidents) posed by the remedial procedures. Finding 2-1b. Eliminating or minimizing the storage of buried CWM that have been recovered will increase project safety and eliminate the potential technical problems caused by storage. That is, it will generally be preferable to characterize, remove, and immediately treat the RCWM and dispose of residuals in accordance with U.S. federal and state environmental requirements in a continuous process, rather than placing the RCWM in storage to await treatment and disposal at a later date. Recommendation 2-1. When possible, the U.S. Army should adopt a continuous remove-and-dispose approach for the remediation of CWM from those large burial sites where the chosen remedy is removal and treatment, instead of removing them, storing them in an intermediate holding facility, and disposing of them later (the remove-store-dispose approach), as is being done for the non-stockpile CWM already recovered. Finding 2-2a. The pace at which DOD, regulators, and/or Congress will require buried CWM to be recovered and destroyed is unknown. However, the rate of recovery and destruction of buried CWM, as determined by DOD, regulators, and/or Congress, will depend in part on the capabilities of existing U.S. technologies and the international technologies evaluated in this study. Finding 2-2b. The U.S. Army’s decision concerning what, if any, particular technology(ies) to use at a particular site depends on, among other things, the rate of recovery and destruction of buried CWM and the availability of technologies to safely, efficiently, and reliably treat potentially large numbers of recovered chemical munitions and chemically contaminated items. Finding 2-2c. The U.S. Army’s Non-Stockpile Program public involvement program (particularly the communication with the Core Group) and interactions with regulatory agencies have benefited the Army, the public, and the overall decision-making process. The Army’s ability to use a new technology may depend on the public’s view of the advantages and disadvantages of the candidate technology. Recommendation 2-2. As the U.S. Army assesses and remediates buried CWM, it should continue its public involvement program, including use of the Core Group and interactions with regulators to solicit input on the (selection of) technologies that might be used for CWM destruction, particularly as a function of the rate of munitions recovery and destruction. REFERENCES CWWG (Chemical Weapons Working Group). 2000. Comments on the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Non-Stockpile Chemical Materiel Disposal. Available online at <http://www.cwwg.org/finaldpeis.html>. Last accessed April 24, 2006. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). 1997. Rules of Thumb for Superfund Remedy Selection, EPA 540/R/97-013/OSWER 9355.0-69, August. Available online at <http://www.epa.gov/superfund/resources/rules/rulesthm.pdf>. Last accessed February 14, 2006. EPA. 2004. Treatment Technologies for Site Cleanup: Annual Status Report (11th Edition), EPA-542-R-03-009, February. Available online at <http://www.clu-in.org/download/remed/asr/11/asr.pdf>. Last accessed February 14, 2006. Federal Register. 2003. Part IV, Department of Defense, 32 CFR Part 179, Munitions Response Site Prioritization Protocol; Proposed Rule. Federal Register 68(183): 50900-50941. Federal Register. 2005. Munitions Response Site Prioritization Protocol— Final Rule. Federal Register 70(192): 58016-58054. 11 For additional information, see <http://www.cma.army.mil/home.aspx>.
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Review of International Technologies for Destruction of Recovered Chemical Warfare Materiel Merriweather, J. 2004. “How mustard gas shells are destroyed: Army to demolish ordnance found in Sussex driveway.” DelawareOnline: The News Journal, October 7. Article ID wil2004100709090238. NRC (National Research Council). 1994. Alternatives for Ground Water Cleanup. Washington, D.C: National Academy Press. NRC. 2002. Systems and Technologies for the Treatment of Non-Stockpile Chemical Warfare Materiel. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. NRC. 2004. Assessment of the Army Plan for the Pine Bluff Non-Stockpile Facility. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. U.S. Army. 2001. Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, Transportable Treatment Systems for Non-Stockpile Chemical Warfare Materiel, February. Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.: Product Manager for Non-Stockpile Chemical Materiel. U.S. Army. 2003a. Army Environmental Cleanup Strategy, April. Available online at <http://www.asaie.army.mil/Public/ESOH/doc/Army-Environmental-Cleanup-Strategy-Final-28April03.pdf>. Last accessed April 24, 2006. U.S. Army. 2003b. “June 2003 RAB meeting.” Corps’pondent: A newsletter by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the residents of Spring Valley. Available online at <http://www.nab.usace.army.mil/projects/WashingtonDC/springvalley/Newsletter/csjun-jul03.pdf>. Last accessed April 24, 2006. U.S. Army. 2004a. Annual Status Report on the Disposal of Chemical Weapons and Material for Fiscal Year 2004. Available online at <http://www.pmacwa.army.mil/ip/dl/acwa_fy04_annual_report.pdf>. Last accessed February 13, 2006. U.S. Army. 2004b. Recovered Chemical Warfare Materiel (RCWM) Response Process, EP 75-1-3, November 30. Available online at <http://www.usace.army.mil/usace-docs/eng-pamphlets/ep75-1-3/entire.pdf>. Last accessed February 14, 2006.
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