Since mid-January there has been talk of additional mustard agent being sent to Tooele County’s Deseret Chemical Depot from Pubelo, Colo. Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. remains “adamantly opposed” to such an option as do several members of Congress and many of Utah’s environmentalists.
But just last week the Tooele County Commission noted that it will be “open minded to the findings of the Army’s study” of such a site switch and “While not actively seeking more chemical agent in Tooele County, the Commission would not oppose such a move, should the Army request it, if that move is from Pueblo.”
The commissioners said in an official release that by allowing the mustard agent to be moved from Colorado to Utah (some 730 miles) that the county would “save approximately 1,500 jobs, mostly held by Tooele County residents, and save billions of dollars in taxpayer money.”
Commissioner Colleen Johnson said, “I’m not going to go out and campaign for this, but I do want to see what the savings to the federal government would be.” She said it didn’t make sense to her for the government to build another expensive disposal facility when the one in Tooele works just fine.
Johnson also pointed out that the Pueblo stockpile consists only of mustard agent which gels at 58 degrees and noted that it would be safe to transport it in refrigerated containers.
But Jason Groenewold, spokesman for the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah asks, “How out of touch do they need to be with what the people of Utah want? This completely goes against what state officials, the public and what Congress wants.”
He said it was “unacceptable and appalling” that the commission would be “willing to put the health of Utahns at a greater risk so they can make another buck.”
However, the commissioners are “confident in the Army’s ability to safely move and destroy agent from Pueblo. The Tooele Chemical Agent Disposal Facility (TOCDF) at Deseret Chemical Depot has proven it can perform safe operations of chemical agent demilitarization.”
Despite all the hubbub, depot officials say there aren’t any current plans in place to accept more mustard agent.