End of munitions destruction in Utah means loss of 1,400 jobs, federal money

Jan 25 2012 - 6:09pm

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File-In this Jan.18,2012 file photo showing a view of the Deseret Chemical Depot outside Stockton, Utah. The elimination of Utah's chemical weapons stockpile last weekend means the loss of millions of dollars in federal funding to the state that for more than two decades helped pay for sophisticated emergency command centers, equipment and training for first responders. The Deseret Chemical Depot finished incineration and decontamination on Saturday Jan. 21,2012. (AP Photo/George Frey,File)
File-In this Jan.18,2012 file photo showing a view of the Deseret Chemical Depot outside Stockton, Utah. The elimination of Utah's chemical weapons stockpile last weekend means the loss of millions of dollars in federal funding to the state that for more than two decades helped pay for sophisticated emergency command centers, equipment and training for first responders. The Deseret Chemical Depot finished incineration and decontamination on Saturday Jan. 21,2012. (AP Photo/George Frey,File)

TOOELE -- Utah's massive chemical weapons stockpile is gone and along with it federal funding that helped pay for sophisticated emergency response centers.

The Deseret News reported (http://bit.ly/xPcr5e ) this week that as many as 1,400 jobs will be eliminated now that the world's largest stockpile of chemical weapons has been destroyed in Utah's west desert.

Utah had received $124 million in federal funding since 1989 through the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program.

The money helped pay for Tooele County's emergency management building, 62 outdoor warning sirens, a microwave communications network and highway reader boards.

The Deseret Chemical Depot at its peak held 13,600 tons of chemical weapons.

"The federal government realized that if you are going to bring something horrible to a community, you have to make sure your community is prepared to respond if something goes wrong," said Joe Dougherty, the state's emergency management spokesman.

The federal government met its obligations, he said.

Depot officials said many of the jobs might shift to Kentucky or Colorado, two states that have yet to begin munitions destruction.

Alaine Grieser, depot spokeswoman, said some jobs can filter over to the Army's Dugway Proving Ground and Tooele Army Depot as positions become available. The depot won't be closed completely until 2014.

Bob Fowler, medical program manager for the state health department's Bureau of Emergency Medical Services and Preparedness, said early planning regarding demilitarization of chemical munitions helped greatly in preparations for the 2002 Winter Olympics. The framework for coordination among emergency management, law enforcement, public health and other agencies was well-established by then and helped Utah carry off a successful major event, he said.

State officials also said they are better equipped now to confront any type of disaster.

The department recently hosted visitors from Pueblo, Colo., as that state gears up to begin destroying its stockpile.

The U.S. Army depot in Utah on Saturday finished destroying the last of the munitions filled with a witches' brew of toxins and blister and blood agents.

The United States is part of an international treaty to rid the world of chemical weapons, a campaign taking place with spotty success around the globe. The goal was supposed to be accomplished by April 29 but will take years longer.

The U.S. has acknowledged it will take as long as 2021 to finish destroying the final 10 percent of its chemical weapons in Colorado, and Richmond, Ky.

Russia is further behind in its effort. Libya also is expected to miss the deadline.

 

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