Gov. Knowles demands military disclosure on test site

Posted: Sunday, October 20, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Gov. Tony Knowles is demanding that the Department of Defense reveal all Cold War-era chemical or biological weapons testing in Alaska.

In a letter Wednesday to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Knowles also insisted that the military work with the state to investigate and, if necessary, clean up any disposal areas or unexploded projectiles and canisters at the Gerstle River test site at Fort Greely.

The test area is open to the public for subsistence hunting, gathering and recreation, Knowles said.

In tests conducted between 1962 through 1967, the military placed sarin gas and VX in artillery shells and rockets that were launched into the woods or detonated in place on the Gerstle River Test Site about 30 miles southeast of Delta Junction. The military then studied how the chemicals dispersed, including how well they stuck to mannequins dressed in cold weather gear.

Last week, the Department of Defense acknowledged the testing but said it didn't harm people or the environment. Until then, the Army had refused to release documents about the site.

The governor has formed an eight-person team from four state agencies to work with the federal government.

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