Publication:Johnson City Press; Date:May 24, 2007; Section:Upstate; Page Number:1B


Peacemaker Teams, others stress damage from weapons plant

• Group contends depleted uranium causes an increased cancer risk

By JAMES BROOKS Press Staff Writer jbrooks@johnsoncitypress.com



    Members of Christian Peacemaker Teams from Colorado, Illinois, Wisconsin, Texas, Indiana, Toronto and one from Chattanooga gathered across the road from Aerojet Ordnance near Jonesborough Wednesday to hold a news conference and to release balloons.

    Linda Modica, chairwoman of the Sierra Club’s Radiation Committee and Cliff Kindy of CPT, led the news conference, which stressed the potential of environmental damage from the manufacture of weapons containing depleted uranium at Aerojet.

    Modica said many former DU weapons plants are now Superfund sites where former workers “experience high rates of cancer and other health problems — our soldiers are experiencing unusual and severe health problems.”

    DU penetrators fired by M1A1 Abrams tanks destroyed more than 200 Russian-built battle tanks in the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom without the loss of a single Abrams in battle.

    Kindy said his visit to Iraq during those early days of the shock and awe stage of the war taught him that U.S. soldiers were directed to stay away from the burned-out hulks of enemy tanks and vehicles due to the atomized radiation in the air from being struck by DU penetrators.

    He charged that 23,000 veterans of the first Gulf War are now dead, and that the cancer, leukemia and birth defect rate or returning veterans skyrocketed, and said DU was one of the major factors.

    He pointed to an empty chair and said the Aerojet plant manager declined to join the news conference and discuss the potential health issue.

    “Some of the equipment that was decommissioned by Aerojet, and supposedly decontaminated of its radioactivity, is being stored out in the open along U.S. Highway 11E where thousands of people drive past each day,” Modica said. “At this time we do not know if that equipment emits any radioactivity — but do ask that it be tested.”

    When asked what evidence the group had of radioactivity releases at the plant that would justify the balloon releases, Modica said, “We don’t know if they are still using their incinerator. However there are many ways to avoid emission-testing equipment by venting rather than sending it up the smokestack.”

    Aerojet officials have consistently declined to comment on the charges of the Peacemaker Group, referring questions to a public affairs officer at parent company Gencorp in California. Gencorp said that any product questions need to be directed to the Army.