6. U.S. Army Quietly Resumes Biowarfare Testing After
Sources: THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE Dates: 1/27/93, 7/28/93, Titles: "Army
Resumes Biological Agent Tests At Dugway After 10Year Cessation;"
"Dugway to test disease-causing agents at remote lab," Author:
Jim Woolf, Date: 9/21/93, Title: "Dugway Base Cited for 22 Waste
Violations," Author: Laurie Sullivan; HIGH COUNTRY NEWS, Date:
8/9/93, Title: "Blowarfare is back," Author: Jon Christensen;
HIGH DESERT ADVOCATE, Date: 9/15/93, Title: "Utah biowarfare oversight
group wants to do its work behind closed doors"
SYNOPSIS: Although few people outside of Dugway, Utah, are aware
of it, the U.S. Army has brought biological warfare testing back to
a site it declared unsafe a decade earlier.
Ten years ago, residents of western Utah breathed a healthy sigh of
relief when the Army discontinued testing biological warfare agents
at its Dugway Proving Ground. The reason given was that the Army's testing
facility was getting old, and its safety-its ability to prevent potentially
deadly diseases from escaping into the air outside the facility and
thence to the rest of the world-could no longer be guaranteed. Now the
deadly bugs are back.
Military scientists are testing a device called the Biological Integrated
Detection System (BIDS) at the renovated Dugway facility. BIDS is described
as a defensive weapon, designed to detect the presence of biological
agents in time to allow soldiers to put on protective clothing.
A Dugway representative said the tests, which include organisms such
as anthrax, botulism, and the plague, would initially be liquid, not
aerosol, tests. Aerosol tests are the most hazardous form of testing
because they involve spraying biological agents into the air inside
a sealed chamber. One tiny air leak could result in a catastrophic release
of deadly diseases. It was precisely this hazard that led to the closing
of the Dugway facility in 1983. The biowarfare lab has been renovated
since then and Army experts claim their elaborate safety precautions
will prevent such a leak.
Nonetheless, new safety concerns were raised in September 1993, when
the Dugway Proving Ground was cited for 22 violations of state hazardous-waste
regulations, ranging from inadequate record-keeping to improper dumping
of poisonous chemicals. Notices of violation and orders for compliance
were issued to the Army base by the Utah Department of Environmental
Critics also point out that it was the Army that denied for a year
that it was responsible for the 1968 accidental release of nerve gas
from Dugway that killed some 6,000 sheep in the area.
Finally, public information about what was happening at Dugway suffered
a serious setback in September 1993, when the biowarfare oversight committee
that advises the governor of Utah on biological defense testing matters
at Dugway voted to make itself off limits to the public. Reasoning that
they could obtain more information from the Army if confidentiality
could be assured, the oversight group also voted to disengage from its
parent organization, the State Advisory Council on Science and Technology.
The committee had been frustrated by its inability to get timely information
Critics doubt the committee will have access to any more information
than it has received in the past and that the net result only further
distances the Army from accountability and the public from the truth.
SSU Censored Researcher: Jesse Boggs
COMMENTS: Jim Woolf, environmental writer for The Salt Lake
Tribune, said he was surprised by the lack of attention this story generated.
"It was treated as a local story that had little significance to
the general public," Woolf said, adding, "I disagree."
Woolf felt the general public should know more about this story for
at least three reasons:
"1. This is an important local story. Military scientists near
my home are conducting tests with some of the most deadly disease
causing organisms and natural toxins ever identified. What if some
of these 'bugs' escape into the environment or are carried by workers
into my community? Are local doctors trained to recognize and deal
with this threat? Has the Army taken all prudent steps to reduce the
risk? Has the public been told the full scope of testing being carried
out by the Army?
"2. Biological and chemical weapons have been described as the
'poor man's atomic bomb.' They are relatively easy to produce and
could have devastating consequences in battle. Several of our enemies
are known or suspected to have these weapons. All announced testing
at Dugway focuses on developing systems to protect American troops
from these weapons. (The development or testing of OFFENSIVE biological
or chemical systems is prohibited under international treaties.) Work
in this field would be of general interest to military families and.
others who may feel threatened by this category of weapon.
"3. The resumption of testing and plans to build an, upgraded
research laboratory at Dugway could have important consequences for
America's international relations. Critics claim there is no clear
line dividing defensive from offensive testing -- the scientific knowledge
gained at Dugway can be used for either good or bad. Does the resumption
of this testing send a message to other countries that the United
States is interested in biochem warfare? Will it prompt other countries
to upgrade their test facilities and lead to an escalation in the
race to produce ever-more-deadly weapons?"
Woolf felt that the interests of several groups were served by the
limited coverage given the resumption of biowarfare testing.
"The Army was pleased. Military scientists want freedom to study
whatever they want, no matter how dangerous or far-fetched the potential
threat may be. The last thing they want are questions from the public
or elected officials.
"Congress was served because members were not required to confront
another potentially controversial issue. A handful of members interested
in military issues are responsible for most of the funding decisions
in this area. If there is no controversy, no one else has to confront
the difficult questions surrounding this topic.
"Certain economic interests in Utah and elsewhere were served.
Dugway provides jobs in a remote area of the state. If biological testing
were eliminated or scaled back, the Army would have fewer reasons to
maintain the base. Also, handful of companies are developing products
and services related to biological-defense. None would like to see their
income potential reduced."
Woolf notes that the resumption of biological testing has been a difficult
issue in Utah and concludes with a chilling question.
"The presence of these deadly agents so close to our community
is a source of concern, but we watched on CNN the terror in Israel during
the Iraq war when no one knew whether the bombs that were falling contained
chemical or biological weapons. We understand the need to improve our
defenses, but wonder why it has to be done in our backyard, whether
there are safer alternatives, and whether all safety precautions have
"We're also frightened that the Army may not be telling the whole
truth -- that in times of emergency they will cover their operations
with the national security veil and do whatever they think is right,
regardless of the threat to their neighbors. Utahns learned this lesson
living downwind from the nuclear-weapons tests at the Nevada Test Site.
"Will the clouds of radioactive material be followed by the plague?"
Jon Christensen, Great Basin Regional Editor for the High Country News,
agreed that there hasn't been sufficient coverage of this issue. "The
only papers to cover the story adequately were The Salt Lake Tribune
and the High Desert Advocate, in Wendover, Nevada." Without their
coverage, Christensen felt that we all might have missed this story
about the resumption of biowarfare testing at Dugway, Utah. He feels
it is important for people to know about this issue since they "might
better understand the domestic costs and risks of preparing for war,
many of which are borne by remote, rural Western communities (among
others). Also, our stockpile of dangerous chemical weapons and biological
agents must be stored and destroyed safely. The public needs to know
how" Christensen emphasized that "The regional media deserve
credit for following this story. Without them, we would all be in the
dark about this."
Although few people outside of Dugway, Utah, are aware of it, the
U.S. Army has brought biological warfare testing back to a site it declared
unsafe a decade earlier.
"ARMY RESUMES BIOLOGICAL" AGENT TESTS AT DUGWAY AFTER 1O-YEAR
by Jim Woolf; Salt Lake Tribune, 1/27/93
The Army this week resumed its most dangerous type of testing with
disease-causing agents at western Utah's Dugway Proving Ground, ending
a 10-year hiatus.
Researchers at the isolated Baker Laboratory injected weakened or killed
strains of two deadly organisms into the air in a test chamber to see
whether they could be detected by a machine designed to warn American
troops of an attack with biological-warfare agents. The military does
not have such a machine.
Mixing biological agents with air-a process called "aerosolization"-is
risky because a tiny leak in the test equipment could allow the organisms
Army experts claim their elaborate safety precautions will prevent
such a leak, but critics contend a serious accident is possible.
State officials and independent scientists were briefed on this test
during a public meeting April 1, 1992. They raised no objections.
Such testing was routine at Dugway until early 1983 when the army concluded
its equipment was too old to ensure safety. The Baker Laboratory has
been renovated since then, allowing testing to resume.
Dugway officials have announced plans to conduct several biological
defense tests involving the aerosolization of disease-causing organisms
and natural toxins. The tests were supposed to have started last year,
but unexpected problems delayed testing until this week.
Melynda J. Petrie, spokeswoman for Dugway, said scientists have started
tests of a Chemical Biological Mass Spectrometer (CBMS). This hand-held
device is designed to sound an alarm when it detects the presence of
either biological- or chemical-warfare agents.
The tests will determine whether the device can detect two dangerous
micro-organisms: Coxiella burnetii, the bacteria that causes Q fever;
and Yersinia pestis, the bacteria that causes bubonic plague.
Ms. Petrie said the Q fever bacteria is killed prior to testing to
reduce the chance of an accident. That is done by heating it for an
hour in an autoclave. The plague bacteria is from a weakened strain
used to vaccinate humans.
The CBMS detector cannot tell the difference between the organisms
being tested and their more dangerous cousins, said Ms. Petrie.
She said some of the tests will mix the disease-causing organism with
such things as diesel fumes and the smoke from burning plants to see
whether the device is overwhelmed by chemicals that might be found on