Tonight at 10pm: Redstone Arsenal’s past causes problems now

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REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (WHNT) - It was an Alabama headline maker in 1941. The Army was putting a $40 million chemical war plant in Madison County.  Nothing but smiles about that, or the county's contribution to winning World War II.

But what happened in those days left a mark. "You know, we've got control of the groundwater. We don't let people drink the groundwater here. We don't let people come in contact with it, " says Terry Delapaz, the Chief Environmental Engineer at Redstone.

You can blame part of Redstone Arsenal's unsafe water on what happened at the base during, and after the war years.  The Arsenal, with its multiple facilities and busy assembly lines, turned out scores of chemical munitions, poison gas rounds.  You can add to that, fuel for rockets and other hazardous industrial chemicals used over the years.  All of it without any worry about the environment.

"It's just a different world today than it was then," says Barry Hodges of the Army Corps of Engineers.

After the war, the debris from chemical weapons, and its manufacture was buried on base in areas that are now off-limits. "They were placed there on purpose during the time frame, because that was the intent. To get these items moved to places where it would be difficult to come in contact with them," says Delapaz.

That was the idea then. Now, the trenches where the chemical munitions debris buried, and the sites where industrial chemicals got into the soil and the groundwater have to be cleaned up.

Join Steve Johnson for his special report, "Hidden Beneath Redstone," Monday, July 14 on WHNT News 19 at 10:00 p.m.  Find out exactly what's buried on base, how dangerous it is, and what's going to happen next.


  • Lotus

    I work on the Arsenal, I have for many years. With all the water fountains in work buildings everywhere, and the faucets in all the break rooms, how are we guaranteed that the water we drink is safe? There aren’t any signs saying “Drink at Your Own Risk.” And if the ground has been contaminated, why are there livestock in pastures all over the place? Who is going to address these questions?

  • Thaddeus

    The water at the veterinary clinic is always orange and smells bad whenever I go in there. I wont even let my dog drink it!

  • Nuclear Mike

    For any of us who have detailed knowledge of the Milan Army Ammunition Plant and Anniston Depot environmental disasters…and the TVA-Shoals Fertilizer residual toxins storage issues…will not be surprised if Redstone Arsenal becomes another “Love Canal” right in our own backyard!!!

  • Terri S

    Redstone Arsental’s water supply is the same as the city of Huntsville’s, from Huntsville Utilities. There is an annual water quality report provided to comply with the EPAs drinking water right-to-know initiative which is known as the Consumer Confidence Report Rule. This rule requires all community water supply systems to prepare and distribute a drinking water quality report to their consumers annually. The report provides water quality testing data for monitoring conducted during 2013, or the most recent monitoring year.
    Redstone strives to provide its workforce with the best drinking water possible. To meet that objective, we constantly monitor Redstone’s drinking water to ensure it meets the stringent requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act. We routinely take 30 water samples each month from pre-identified sites throughout Redstone Arsenal and deliver them to a state certified laboratory to be analyzed for disease causing contaminants. During 2013, all of the monitoring results revealed that no disease causing contaminants were present in Redstone’s drinking water. Additionally, we monitor your drinking water for several secondary contaminants. The test results for these contaminants also revealed that the water meets state and federal standards and is safe to drink.
    You can find the report on our website:, under “Drinking Water Report.”
    Terri Stover, Public Affairs Specialist, Redstone Arsenal

    • Reality Check

      Are your test samples taken from actual drinking fountains and sinks or special taps off the main line. Some of the older buildings produce water in the toilets that looks better when you are done then before you start.

      • Brad Watts

        Some of the reasons for the water discoloration is because of the design of the sewer and pipe system. Not all of Redstone is on a fully circular system, and in some cases have end points that have to be flushed. If you’ve ever noticed water being pumped out down by Redstone or Buxton road, these are the attempts to flush out the system again.

    • Reader

      I’ve read the water quality reports. They’re why I don’t drink the water on the arsenal. In my building, depending on the tap you can choose from water containing lead or other metals above the limits.

  • Jim

    This is no surprise. The storage or disposal of those weapons and munitions have been known about since it was done hence the off limit areas. At the time that was the way things were done. Today clearly it is not and we have the task to clean them up. Fortunately we have chemical decommissioning facilities close by ie in Anniston for the intact munitions. It definitely will be a job to clean them up.There are a myriad of these types of issues on quite a few bases in the us, the Alabama Ammunition plant in Coosa Pines\Childersburg AL area that comes to mind for me. It is a closed facility yet it is still contaminated all over the reservation with similar types of disposal of chemicals and ordnance from the WWII era…

  • james

    There is more , The garbage plant burns its waste to make steam which powers Most of not all of that base. On cold morning you can see the steam leaking up through the ground , i have herd that all of that pipe has asbestos Insolation and that will cost A LOT of money to dig up and replace….I fear soon that place will just cost to much to maintain…

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