Citizens for the Responsible Destruction of Chemical Weapons of the Miami Valley files complaint with Pentagon, U.S. EPA

April 16, 2003

Laura Rench (513) 835-3464 (community)
Ellis Jacobs (513) 228-8088 ext. 111 (legal)

DAYTON -- Citizens For the Responsible Destruction of Chemical Weapons of the Miami Valley (CRDCW) and the Dayton Chapter of the NAACP announced today that they have filed an Environmental Justice Complaint with the U. S. Department of Defense and the U.S. EPA. The compliant states that the Army and the U.S. EPA have violated Environmental Justice Executive Order 12898 by taking actions which have a disparate impact on a low income community with a significant African American population.

The U.S. Army is proposing to have Perma-Fix, a waste treatment facility located in Drexel, Jefferson Township, treat VX nerve agent hydrolysate. Before the Army recently decided to ship this hazardous material 275 miles to Perma-Fix, the Army had a plan to treat it at the Newport Indiana Chemical Weapons Depot, where the VX was created and has been stored for years.

The Newport Chemical Depot is in a rural area. The closest population center is in Newport, Indiana, 2.6 miles away. Newport is 97.6% white and has no African American residents. The poverty rate in Newport is 9.1%. The community the Army has chosen to ship this material to, our community, presents a stark contrast. Tens of thousands of people live within several miles of Perma-Fix. The Drexel neighborhood surrounds the facility. Houses are immediately across the street. There are more than 2000 people in Drexel alone and Drexel is 35.1% African American and 33.5 % of the households live in poverty.

"Bringing this dangerous material to the Drexel community is out and out discrimination based on race and income" said Michelle Cooper, a resident of Jefferson Township. Cooper stated, "The Environmental Justice Executive Order is supposed to stop this kind of activity."

"I am concerned about bringing VX Nerve agent by-products to Perma-Fix, because I am already having health problems that I feel are the result of living next to Perma-Fix for the last five years, " said Esther Miller, a neighbor to the Perma-Fix plant and another complainant in the filing.

The administrative complaint was filed with the Department of Defense and the US EPA and asks that all counts of the complaint be investigated and for the Departments to take action to protect this largely minority low income community. The Complaint cites a number of violations by Perma-Fix and the US Army and complaints filed by residents in the neighborhood. It requests that the neighborhood be protected.

"These citizens feel that once again their community is being targeted for environmentally dangerous activities. This Administrative Complaint is just one of the ways that this community is standing up for health and safety and against discrimination," stated Ellis Jacobs, one of the attorneys for the Complainants. Complainants are also represented by Luke Cole, an attorney at the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment.

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