KENTUCKY VOICES

Ky. Voices: Ky.'s chemical disarmament a global model

Ky.'s chemical disarmament a global model

June 8, 2013 

M55 rockets containing VX nerve agent are stored in a secure bunker at Blue Grass Army Depot in Madison County. This photo was taken during a media tour on Sept. 6, 2001.

PHOTO BY PABLO ALCALA | STAFF — Herald-Leader Buy Photo

Too often, news is made when things go wrong.

Worrisome headlines about international terror and wars make it easy to feel confused, overwhelmed and helpless.

But recently, Central Kentucky witnessed a positive development of which we can be proud: the attention from international disarmament leaders to our efforts to destroy lethal chemical weapons at the Blue Grass Army Depot.

On May 22, members of the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) visited Madison County as part of their oversight regarding the Chemical Weapons Treaty.

Representatives from the Ukraine, China, Germany, Ecuador, Russia, Libya, Japan and South Africa along with the OPCW director general were present. Under this treaty, the U.S., along with 187 other countries, must destroy all chemical weapons in their possession, and not use nor produce any more.

The recent visit by the OPCW Executive Council reminded me that we in Central Kentucky are part of a historical effort. Never before has there been agreement to rid the planet of an entire class of weapons of mass destruction.

Their visit not only provided the members of the Chemical Destruction Community Advisory Board the opportunity to appreciate the part the board is playing in this global objective, but it allowed OPCW members to see firsthand the extremely high level of civic engagement.

They saw how cooperation and transparency among the local community, the federal government and contractors can result in greater trust and a more efficient disposal process. They saw how we're merging economic development interests with environmental, safety and health considerations for cooperative planning to ensure future success in our community.

Earlier in May I had the privilege of representing our region at an OPCW meeting in The Hague and personally witnessed the concern expressed by the international community about chemical weapons disposal challenges in other countries.

It was extremely gratifying to think back on the challenges we faced in the 1980s and 90s, and how after all these years, we are truly united. Our community is a shining example of success in the global demilitarization effort.

Challenges remain: reliable federal funding, construction completion, systemization of operations and continued consensus-building lie ahead.

But we are on our way to not only providing a safer environment here at home, but also to contributing to a significantly less dangerous world. This is something we can all take pride in.

Craig Williams of Berea is director of the Chemical Weapons Working Group at the Kentucky Environmental Foundation and co-chair of the Chemical Destruction Community Advisory Board.

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