Army proposal possibly dangerous

Brian Westfall

Burning down arsenal may be harmful

The U.S. Army may be making guinea pigs out of Northeast Ohio residents and the effects could be deadly.

This was the fear expressed by some individuals at a public meeting that dealt with a proposal to incinerate a

World War II-era arsenal in eastern Portage County.

Last night’s meeting was the second on the topic following a meeting last week. The meeting was held in the Shearer Community Center in Paris Township, a small community east of Ravenna.

“It’s great that the community is so interested in this,” Paris Township Trustee Ralph Graham said to the crowd of more than 100, including 30 residents who had to stand.

The U.S. Army has proposed a plan to incinerate the Ravenna Army Ammunition Plant by burning the building in its current location. The arsenal was used during World War II, Vietnam and the Korean War for making mortar and artillery shells.

The Environmental Protection Agency has determined that the arsenal is contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, which are commonly found in the type of paint used on buildings of this age, according to Bill Krimmer, a resident of Paris Township who spoke at length at the meeting in opposition to the proposed burn.

PCBs, when burned, produce dioxins and furans, which are known carcinogens, Krimmer added.

“We’re going to be the ones that are going to be down wind of this,” Krimmer said.

Eileen Mohr, a representative from the Ohio EPA, was in attendance and talked extensively about the testing which has been done to check for contaminants in the buildings.

The results show that the arsenal is contaminated with over 100 times the amount of PCBs that is considered safe by the EPA.

Mohr said that the government has never burned down an arsenal that contained more than the safe limit of PCBs.

The Army’s interest in the building is to tear down buildings that are of no use to them and to turn the rest into a training area for the National Guard, Mohr said.

The Army made the proposal to burn the arsenal because it says it is the safest way to demolish the buildings which contain dangerous explosives, she added.

Several of the community members in attendance expressed their opposition. One woman asked what the effects would be on her child if the Army was allowed to incinerate the arsenal.

Krimmer responded that without further testing there is no way of knowing what the effects would be.

“This isn’t a done deal,” Mohr said. “It’s a proposal.” She added that the federal EPA would make the ultimate decision on whether or not the Army can go ahead with its plans, not the Ohio EPA.

Mohr said future meetings will be in order before a decision can be made about the proposal.

“We have to organize if we want to have a say in this,” Krimmer said.

Contact public affairs reporter Brian Westfall at [email protected].