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Lake Sun Leader
November 02, 2000

Lake residents back move to stop bio training

Appeal claims people being harmed by spray used in bio-warfare training at Leonard Wood

By Marsha Paxson

LAKE OF THE OZARKS - Lake of the Ozarks petitioners are backing a move by the Missouri Coalition for the Environment to force Fort Leonard Wood officials to halt all biological and chemical-warfare training exercises.

St. Louis attorney Lewis Green says he has filed an appeal with the Missouri Air Conservation Com-mission because the installation is releasing biological and chemical agents into the air for training purposes. Three residents near the post have also joined in the legal action.

The U.S. Army has said that the agent being used to train soldiers in the use of anti-biological-warfare weapons is harmless.

Opponents do not believe the Army's explanation. "These agents can cause harm not only to the soldiers, but they affect the public as well," Green said. "They are training with bacillus subtilis, fog oil and chemical agents that are not safe."

Joyce Riley vonKleist, an American Gulf War Veterans Association spokesperson and flight nurse from Versailles, says she has been able to obtain more than 500 signatures from residents around the lake, in nearby farming communities and from locations across the state, asking Gov. Roger Wilson to stop the releases immediately.

"We had a town hall meeting in Versailles a week ago and 350 people attended," Riley said. "If you figure that most of them signed the petition and the population of Versailles is 2,400 - that's a good indication people here are concerned about it."

Riley contends that the bacteria being released in training exercises at Fort Leonard Wood can travel hundreds of miles and the spores can remain active for decades. This, she said, puts residents in areas across the state at risk for exposure.

Fort Leonard Wood officials said exposure that far away would not be likely, because the dead version of the simulant is mixed with water and is released by a three-gallon sprayer with a gas motor that sprays 15-20 feet in diameter. The spray drifts in line with the wind and simulates an agent being used in combat so soldiers can learn to detect and analyze it with a unit called a biological integrated detection system.

Post spokesman Mike Warren said there is little chance the simulant would drift outside one of the installation's six training areas or off post into the civilian populace.

DNR spokesperson Connie Patterson said Fort Leonard Wood complied with its permitting process and provided them with all the pertinent information about the bacteria they were planning to use before the post started BIDS unit training in fall 1999.

"It appears from what we know the release is safe," Patterson said.

But Green said Department of Natural Resources officials approved a permit for the post to release the agents without the public's input and opportunity to appeal.

Although notices of the permit appeared in newspapers around Fort Leonard Wood and in Lebanon last fall, none of the announcements mentioned bacterial agents nor did they specifically mention bacillus subtilis.

Riley said the Depart-ment of Defense had a duty to tell the public what they were up to and that the health of family, pets or livestock could be compromised as a result of such training activities on the post.

Copyright 2000 The Lake Sun Leader. All rights reserved.

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