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


Chemical munitions assembly line during World War 2 (Courtesy: Redstone Arsenal Archives)

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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.