LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES
Army Plans to Burn Weapons in Anniston, Alabama
Aired August 5, 2003 - 19:32 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: An environmental battle is in full swing in Anniston, Alabama. That's the story we're going to tell you about right now. The U.S. Army was scheduled to begin burning old chemical weapons in the small town tomorrow, but today, the Army agreed to temporarily postpone the disposal until Friday, and that is when a federal judge will consider an environmental group's request for an even longer delay.
Now, much of Anniston is worried about the military's plan to burn tons of chemical weapons right in their backyard. Our David Mattingly is at the epicenter of the environmental debate. David, what's the latest?
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the Anniston incinerator is built, it's ready to go, but its start-up date is subject to on again, off again delays. So people here in Anniston have been coming here to this readiness center to prepare, and they've been picking up a very much talked about piece of equipment that will help them in case of an emergency -- a gas mask.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): They've been coming from all over Anniston, Alabama, looking for peace of mind and finding it in a special breathing mask.
ZADIE GAY, RESIDENT: It's very scary. It's very scary.
MATTINGLY: More than 1,000 people a day crowded into what county officials call a readiness center, getting ready for when the Army begins $1 billion incineration of a stockpile of chemical and nerve gas weapons.
MIKE ABRAMS, ARMY PUBLIC AFFAIRS: It's much, much safer to operate this facility than to store chemical weapons at the Anniston Army Depot.
MATTINGLY: The weapons have been in storage at the Anniston Army Depot since 1961. They're now so old the Army confirms some of them are leaking, and have been for years. But burning them, something the Army's been doing elsewhere for more than a decade, has many in this community on edge.
CHRIS WHIGHAM, RESIDENT: I bought a house here, raising my kids here for seven years, and then the next thing you know, you know, maybe a leak one day. MATTINGLY: The Army, however, argues the process is tried, tested and proven safe. Still, state officials demanded that every precaution is taken, and that means outfitting thousands with gas masks and room air filters.
GOV. BOB RILEY, ALABAMA: We don't think that it will ever be necessary to use it, but to just be sure that's the reason we distribute the gas mask and do the other things that we're doing here.
MATTINGLY: Anderson, about 35,000 people here in Anniston who live closest to the incinerator are eligible for these hoods. So far, about 70 percent of those people have picked them up so far, with plenty of time now to pick up the rest -- Anderson.
COOPER: A remarkable story. Dave Mattingly, thanks very much.
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