A variety of stakeholders, including the Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (ACWA) program, the Pueblo Chemical Agent Destruction Pilot Plant (PCAPP), regulators, members of the Colorado Citizens’ Advisory Commission (CAC), and other local entities, are interested in and affected by activities at the PCAPP facility. The discussion in this chapter, however, focuses on the interests and input of local members of the general public, relying primarily on the CAC as the institutional representative of the local and state populations.
The public involvement process at PCAPP is well established and uses a variety of approaches to keep the nearby communities informed and involved in project activities and decisions. As described in Review of Secondary Waste Disposal Planning for the Blue Grass and Pueblo Chemical Agent Destruction Pilot Plants (NRC, 2008), the involvement process includes the following:
- An Outreach Office that maintains a web site and a mailing list, now estimated at 1800 recipients, that distributes fact sheets, newsletters and project updates; runs a speakers’ bureau that makes presentations to businesses, local officials, schools and civic organizations and minority communities; and supports the local reuse authority which is planning for reuse of the property after completion of demilitarization.
- Frequent interaction with elected officials, and staff from the regulatory and emergency management agencies.
- A Citizens’ Advisory Commission (CAC), formed as a consultative body to receive citizen and state concerns. It is comprised of nine members appointed by the state governor,1 and is administered by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The CAC, which meets 10 times a year, is the focal point for public discussion of PCAPP issues.
In addition, since 2010, the Program Executive Office (PEO) for ACWA has periodically posted on Twitter and Facebook, providing information about operations and programs to the broader public (it calls itself the “official source of PEO ACWA’s chemical weapons destruction news”).
The committee adopted a three-pronged approach in seeking input from local stakeholders into the criteria and decision points to be considered in completing the current task. This approach was discussed and suggestions for enhancing public input were solicited in public presentations, shown in Appendix B, Exhibit 1, both of which took place in Pueblo in July 2014. Input from local stakeholders was sought through
- Open discussion at the July NRC and CAC meetings.
- Establishment of a dedicated e-mail address to which comments could be submitted: Comments_for_NRC_Hydrolysate_Committee@nas.edu. This address was established in mid-July, prior to meeting with the CAC. It was printed on business cards that were distributed at the CAC meeting, made available at the Outreach Office, and publicized in an article in the local newspaper, The Pueblo Chieftain (see Appendix B, Exhibit 2).
- A webinar combining written and spoken input to clarify and further discuss outstanding issues, if needed.
The CAC had been briefed by the Army and given an opportunity to comment on the statement of task prior to its issuance. The Hydrolysate Committee held its first meeting in Pueblo in July 2014, coincident with that month’s meeting of the CAC to facilitate local attendance, and it invited CAC members to join it for the presentations and open discussion. Two members of the CAC, including the chair, attended the 2-day open meetings, and NRC committee members
1 50 USC 1521 (m).
attended the CAC meeting to introduce themselves, provide an overview of the study and respond to questions, and further emphasize the importance of community input.
Interests and Input of the CAC
There is common agreement among all stakeholders on the goals of avoiding unnecessary delay in destruction of the stockpile, reducing risk and assuring the safety of workers and the community, and using resources and funding efficiently. However, the priority placed on these objectives differs across stakeholders, in particular between the CAC and the other stakeholders.
For example, the CAC, which is strongly committed to onsite biotreatment, has consistently opposed offsite shipment of hydrolysate. Although the views of the broader public are less well researched and known, the CAC’s opposition to offsite shipment and mistrust of the Army has a long and well-documented history that was further increased by its experience of the way shipments at Newport were conducted (see especially Noblis, 2008; NRC, 2008). As the discussions at the July Pueblo meeting clearly showed, this opposition continues and is permeated by a skepticism that the current NRC study represents, in the words of one CAC member in informal conversation, “yet another” attempt by “the folks in the Pentagon” to negate the Army’s commitment to the neutralization/biotreatment package that was selected, with strong involvement and support, by the Pueblo and Blue Grass communities and embodied in the 2003 ACWA legislation. The CAC chair also noted an apparent disconnect between ACWA’s public declarations of the safety of biotreatment and the current effort to consider the technology’s possible failure.
A comparison of the CAC statement presented by the CAC chair at the NRC Hydrolysate Committee meeting (see Appendix B, Exhibit 3) and the statement provided to the NRC in 2008 that was developed jointly by the Pueblo and Blue Grass CACs shows fundamentally similar concerns about offsite shipments. In addition to the loss of trust if ACWA were to rescind its agreement to treat hydrolysate onsite, specific concerns itemized in the 2014 statement that find a parallel in the 2008 statement include these:
- Violation of environmental justice principles, specifically, that each community should take care of its own waste and not dump it on someone else.
- Political opposition and potential litigation from host communities and communities along transportation routes.
- Transportation risks, including the cost of spills and emergency response assistance, to communities along the routes; the efficiency and thoroughness of the coordination of notification, monitoring, and management of shipments.
- Identification of transportation routes and the need for additional National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) review and regulatory changes that would affect cost and schedule, including compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention.
- The compliance record of selected treatment, storage, and disposal facilities (TSDF) (relating to both the Occupational Health and Safety Administration and environmental justice compliance) and assurance of timely and fiscally responsible performance.
- Potential loss of jobs and economic opportunities for the Pueblo community.
- Loss of water sourced from the Pueblo facility if hydrolysate is shipped rather than treated onsite (this concern had not previously been listed).
In addition, the CAC chair strongly recommended that stakeholders be included in establishing the criteria and decision points used to determine that offsite shipment of hydrolysate is the only viable option, as well as in the decision-making process should such shipment need to be addressed. She reiterated that shipment should not be considered as the first and only remedy but as the remedy of last resort. She also recommended consideration of cost and safety and the need for continuous communication with the community and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to avoid misunderstanding and to facilitate the permitting changes that would be needed if a decision is made to ship offsite.
Subsequent input provided at the CAC meeting highlighted members’ continuing commitment to deployment of the selected technology of biotreatment. For example, at the CAC meeting, the CAC chair expressed the hope that the NRC study would be placed on a shelf and not actually be used. She emphasized that from the CAC’s perspective, if problems arise, hydrolysate shipment is “not the first choice” but “the very last, the ultimate last, the nothing-else-can-be-done last” choice. She also expressed the desire that the NRC Hydrolysate Committee’s findings be clearly conveyed in a publicly accessible forum upon completion of the report.
Similarly, the follow-up CAC written statement of concerns (see Appendix B, Exhibit 4) reemphasized members’ commitment to biotreatment and their confidence in PCAPP personnel to successfully mitigate and resolve potential limitations that could arise. In its statement, the CAC expressed the opinion that total failure of the biomass, including failure of the biomass seed to acclimate to the hydrolysate feed, or failure to reduce the thiodiglycol to required levels would represent a failure of the system. The CAC listed a series of possible problems and reiterated its confidence in ACWA and PCAPP personnel to address them. The CAC also noted that it was not just “a simple matter of shutting down the biotreatment area (BTA) should one or all parts of the BTA fail,” but that offsite shipment would incur additional costs as well as loss of schedule. The CAC cited costs and schedule issues,
which included changes to NEPA and permitting; construction costs of building the loading dock, piping, and road access; increased water costs arising from loss of recycled water; coordination among federal, state, and local agencies; and negotiations with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (United Nations) (OPCW). In addition, the CAC recommended an extensive educational campaign to address the skepticism that would arise among members of the local community, who had long accepted the “total package” of neutralization followed by biotreatment.
Interests and Input of Other Local Stakeholders
Only one comment was received by the NRC committee at the dedicated e-mail address that provided a perspective different from the CAC’s. The comment, which was submitted by Carl Ballinger, Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program (CSEPP), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Coordinator for Pueblo County, offered strong support for deploying offsite hydrolysate shipments should they be needed:
I have been involved in chemical weapons storage and the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program for over 24 years; first as a Chemical Corps soldier assigned to the then Pueblo Depot Activity, and now as the CSEPP Coordinator for Pueblo County. I think it is important to remember what the primary mission is: safely destroying the stockpile. Anything that hinders or slows down that process needs to be addressed quickly and effectively, regardless what the cause. If the delay is caused by the inability of the biotreatment to function effectively then we need to move quickly to consider other options, to include offsite shipment.
Other than the above comment, the NRC received no comments from local stakeholders through the dedicated e-mail address. Discussion during a conference call with staff from the PCAPP public affairs office, the CDPHE, and the CAC indicated that chemical materiel activities at PCAPP were not a significant concern.2 The public affairs officer noted that interest levels varied over time, according to activity levels at the facility. Currently, the program is said to be in a lull, a conclusion supported by data collected by CSEPP for a 2013 Web-based survey. The survey showed that the percentage of residents aware of chemical agents at the Pueblo Chemical Depot decreased by 7 percent between January 2004 and January 2013, from 93 percent to 86 percent (FEMA, July 2013). However, those data also demonstrate that local residents have a relatively high level of awareness (86 percent for local residents and 84 percent for local business representatives), and PCAPP public affairs staff expect to see an increase in interest and queries as PCAPP operations begin. Although attendance by local stakeholders at CAC meetings typically is sparse, participants on the conference call agreed that the general public nevertheless relies on the CAC to act as a watchdog for the community’s interests. Moreover, they believed a decision by ACWA to initiate offsite shipment of hydrolysate and rescind its commitment to the accepted neutralization/biotreatment package would immediately spark interest and controversy among local, and even national, public stakeholders. And, as clearly demonstrated by the history of the stockpile program, such controversy could lead to conflict, litigation, and unacceptable delay in the ACWA program. Conversely, cooperation among stakeholders could facilitate achievement of program goals.
As demonstrated in the following technical chapters, there is strong confidence in the success of the chosen technologies at PCAPP. However, as with any new application, unexpected issues might arise and appropriate mitigation measures might be required, often at short notice. In view of the established role of the CAC in the community, in combination with members’ strong commitment to biotreatment, lingering concerns about the equivalent strength of ACWA’s commitment, and skepticism about any suggestion to institute offsite shipment, many opportunities exist for misinterpretation of motives and technical decisions that are made as preparatory work continues. It will therefore be critical for ACWA to initiate discussions with the CAC well before operations begin and to put in place an institutional mechanism that can focus on bridging any disconnect between technical priorities and the community’s social priorities. Such a mechanism would be supplementary to, yet part of, the CAC and would build on the sound working relationships that PCAPP and the CAC have been developing over many years. It would aim to ensure regular, open communication throughout operations, enhancing the probability that program goals can be achieved despite differing priorities.
Finding 3-1. All stakeholders (ACWA, PCAPP, state regulators, CAC, and other local stakeholders) agree on the need for (1) avoiding unnecessary delay in the efficacious destruction of the stockpile; (2) reducing risk and ensuring the safety of workers and the community; and (3) efficient use of resources and funding. However, the priority placed on these objectives differs across stakeholders.
Finding 3-2. Given the uncertainty about technical issues that could arise during operations, it is critical to avoid surprises presented by decisions that may be needed, especially those relating to offsite shipment of hydrolysate.
2 September 5, 2014, conference call with Judith Bradbury and Hank Jenkins-Smith, members, Hydrolysate Committee; Irene Kornelly, chair, Colorado CAC; Jeannine Natterman, CDPHE; John Norton, member, Colorado CAC; Sandy Romero, PCAPP communications manager; Nancy Schulte, study director, Hydrolysate Committee; and Thomas Schultz, public affairs specialist, PCAPP.
Finding 3-3. There is a history of distrust and a continuing lack of confidence on the part of some local stakeholders that offsite shipment will occur only as a last resort.
Finding 3-4. Disagreement about the need for offsite shipment could lead to conflict, litigation, and unacceptable delay in the ACWA program. Conversely, cooperation among stakeholders could facilitate the achievement of program goals.
Finding 3-5. Because of the potential for technical uncertainties in a context of different priorities and a history of distrust, it is critical that all stakeholders receive a credible commitment from ACWA that they, the stakeholders, will be given a clearly defined and meaningful role in any deliberations that could lead to a decision to ship offsite.
Finding 3-6. PCAPP staff have developed a sound working relationship with the CAC and local stakeholders that serves as a foundation for establishing a credible consultation process.
Recommendation 3-1. In consultation with the CAC, ACWA should institutionalize an explicit consultation process that focuses on the potential for offsite shipment. This process should be established immediately and give stakeholders a clearly defined and meaningful role. The consultation process should (1) be supplementary to the more general role of the CAC; (2) provide to the CAC regular updates on the status of operations as they bear on the possible need for offsite shipments; and (3) be explicitly designed to ensure there are no surprises on the part of stakeholders if they are called on to consider offsite shipments.
Finding 3-7. In order to avoid delay and the imposition of undue risk on workers and the local community, advance preparations for offsite shipment may need to be initiated at least several months before a decision is made to actually initiate offsite shipments. Advance preparations will need to be conducted as part of the stakeholder consultation process so that stakeholders are informed as these preparations are in progress.
Finding 3-8. Absent stakeholder consultation and understanding, these preparations could be subject to misinterpretation.
Recommendation 3-2. Once a process is in place for stakeholder consultation in the determination of the need for offsite shipments, advance planning on associated regulatory and plant issues for such shipment should be expedited.
FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). 2013. Comment sent to committee by Carl Ballinger via e-mail. July.
Noblis. 2008. Offsite Disposal of ACWA Hydrolysates. NTR 2008-61129. Falls Church, Va.
NRC (National Research Council). 2008. Review of Secondary Waste Disposal Planning for the Blue Grass and Pueblo Chemical Agent Destruction Pilot Plants. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.