Washington, DC — A top scientist overseeing chemical weapons storage operations at the Bluegrass Army Depot claims he was fired for reporting worker safety, environmental and data integrity violations, according to legal filings released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The troubled Army facility in Kentucky is already the subject of a federal grand jury looking into these and other lapses at the repository for storing 500 tons of the world’s deadliest chemical warfare agents.
Kim Schafermeyer, an analytical chemist and industrial hygienist, served at Bluegrass until July 2006 when he was abruptly dismissed just prior to the end of his one year probationary period. In his April 6, 2007 affidavit filed in support of his legal complaint, Schafermeyer outlines chronic safety and pollution concerns, including –
- Direct venting of chemical warfare agent expelled from testing equipment directly into laboratory areas occupied by workers and visitors;
- Improper handling of air and waste water samples; and
- Flawed monitoring data protocols, including apparent creation of figures when data gaps occurred.
Schafermeyer also describes supervisors and certifying officials with no identifiable qualifications, the misuse of congressionally appropriated funds (obtained by U.S. Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky) earmarked for equipment upgrades and threats by base managers in order to stifle reports of any problems.
“The command at Bluegrass appears to be far more concerned with containing the truth about conditions inside the depot than with containing the lethal chemicals it is supposed to be safeguarding,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, whose organization is representing depot whistleblowers. “The picture emerging from the sworn statements of depot workers is downright scary.”
In addition to the criminal grand jury convened by the U.S. Justice Department, other depot employees have come forward with information about the inability to monitor conditions inside the “igloos” where VX nerve gas and other agents are stored in their original rockets.
Schafermeyer’s cases is currently awaiting hearing before a U.S. Department of Labor administrative law judge, although it may be sent back to the federal civil service authorities for processing under the Whistleblower Protection Act rather than under federal environmental laws.
“There will be many more revelations in the coming days out of the chemical weapons operation at Bluegrass,” Ruch added, noting that PEER is now taking sworn statements from current and former depot managers. “Incredibly, Blue Grass managers are still telling employees that safety and environmental considerations detract from the facility mission.”