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The Versailles

Volume 115, Number 44 Thursday, October 26, 2000

Fort Wood tests raise concerns

by Bertha Evans

It isn't "The X-Files," but it reads like one of the scripts from the series.

In the beginning, a woman struggles to make information known about a biological agent being sprayed in populated areas. Along with her pleas, she provides government documentation to back up her beliefs.

The only elements missing are threats by a clandestine smoking man, Dana Scully and Fox Mulder, but this isn't science fiction.

Joyce Riley vonKleist, a registered nurse and a legal nurse consultant in Versailles, discovered just such a scenario has taken place this year when a military official announced a biological element had been tested at Fort Leonard Wood.

Todd Crawford at Missouri's Department of Natural Resources confirmed Fort Leonard Wood has dispersed the biological agent bacillus subtilis (also called bacillus globigli or bacillus subtilis variant niger) into the open air. He said the permit does not indicate a specific area in which the agent may be released, but the fort has permission to disperse 49.5 pounds of the agent during the year.

What does this mean for Morgan County?

Why should this matter to the people of Morgan County? Because Crawford said bacillus subtilis is spread by the wind. According to the Department of Defense, simulants tested in Texas were later found to have made their way to Florida, travelling approximately 1,300 miles. Fort Leonard Wood is only 60 miles from Versailles.

Riley vonKleist said she has evidence indicating the fort has conducted the test at least four times.

According to information DNR has been able to uncover since then, only two tests have been documented at Fort Leonard Wood. The first was on Feb. 16, when 1.6 pounds was released, and the second on Aug. 24, when 2.5 pounds were released, according to Crawford.

One of the main concerns voiced by those opposing the testing of the agent is it is closely related to bacillus anthracis, the biological agent that causes the disease anthrax. Crawford confirmed the agent has characteristics similar to anthrax.

"It is used to train people in the use of equipment to detect anthrax and get rid of it," Crawford said. "It is a simulant bacteria to use instead of using a very pathogenic germ."

Riley vonKleist provided government documentation stating there doesn't seem to be much risk with normal, healthy adults. However, those with compromised immune systems, the young or the elderly may be at risk when exposed to the agent. Crawford confirmed there may be some health issues, and produced a biological summary sheet containing this information. Upper respiratory infections and eye infections are the most common.

"There are some indications there may be some complications with nonhumans," Crawford said. Riley vonKleist said there is evidence of bovine (cattle) miscarriages when the animals are exposed to the agent.

More evidence found

These facts also are found in "Biological Testing Involving Human Subjects by the Department of Defense, 1977, Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research of the Committee on Human Resources, United States Senate, 95th Congress, First Session on the Examination of Serious Deficiencies in the Defense Department's Efforts to Protect the Human Subjects, of Drug Research, March 8 and May 23, 1977."

In Edward M. Kennedy's opening statement, Kennedy said, "the Army had conducted a number of simulated biological warfare tests in the public domain and without the knowledge or consent of the people exposed to these tests. They also acknowledged that, while the simulants used in the tests were believed to be safe at that time, it is known that at least some of them are not safe and were not safe then."

Three doctors reporting at the Committee on Human Resources meeting told senators Kennedy and Schweiker there are no safe simulants, and the simulants often pose a serious problem to those with compromised immune systems. These were regarding testing done from 1949 through 1968, and bacillus subtilis was one of the agents tested during that time.

Another concern is, since the agent is dispersed in spore form, it can remain intact for decades, Riley vonKleist said. Once it finds a suitable environment, it can become active again.

Riley vonKleist said the agent is genetically engineered and there is no way to predict how it will affect the general population, a point supported by doctor's testimony in the Committee on Human Resources hearings.

In "Clouds of Secrecy--The Army's Germ Warfare Tests Over Populated Areas," by Leonard A. Cole and provided by Riley vonKleist, Cole notes testing conducted by the

United States government during the 1950s, using bacillus subtilis.

He wrote, "the organism was shown to have an unusually simple capability of genetic . It readily could incorporate segments of infective viral material (DNA) into its own genetic structures. This led some scientists to suggest that the bacteria could act as reservoirs for pathogenic viruses and [serve as carriers] until some later time when the virus becomes active and causes the disease for no readily apparent reason."

Riley vonKleist says tests violate code

Riley vonKleist is among those who wish to see the testing stop and Fort Leonard Wood's permit revoked. She contends the testing violates the Nuremberg Code, which states there will be no human testing without consent.

Crawford said there were public notices publicized and public hearings held in the Waynesville area, which was all the permit required of the fort. The original permit did not allow for the testing, and the permit had to be revised. The public notices for the revision of the original permit issued by DNR were printed July 26 in the Lebanon Daily Record, on July 25 in Cole County's News Tribune, July 25 in the Rolla Daily News and Aug. 5 in Pulaski County's Daily Fort Gateway Guide. The original public hearing was Aug. 25 at the Waynesville High School. A second public notice was printed in the same papers on Sept. 8, Sept. 5, Sept. 9 and Aug. 26, respectively. None of the public notices contained language mentioned bacillus subtilis or any other biological agent. The notices stated the applications were "for permission to modify existing permits. (APCP Permit No. 0695-010 WPCP Permit No. MO-07251) to include the sources related to the Base Realignment and Closure activities that were not incorporated into the original conditions relating to the visibility of Class 1 areas. The project will consume the total Prevention of Significa Deterioration increment within the installation's property boundaries. The allowance increment consumed decreases proportionally to the distance from the installation's boundaries."

In DNR's permit book, the Permit To Construct #1099-001, Project # 1998-11-105, the application stated this was a "Modification of Air Pollution Control Program Permit (APCP) No. 0695-010 to include new sources related to move of the U.S. Army Chemical and Military Police Schools to U.S. Army Engineer Center and Fort Leonard Wood that were not included in the original permit."

Public meeting set

Riley von Kleist plans to hold a public meeting at 7 p.m. today (Thursday), Oct. 26 at the Versailles Middle School gymnasium. Representatives from the local, state and national governments, military personnel and health organizations have been invited to the meeting, and the meeting is open to the public.

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