Friday’s discussion of the environmental hazards induced by the Longhorn Army Ammunition Plant stirred within me an overwhelming desire to watch the movie Erin Brockovich as well as an urge to find a greater understanding as to why anyone would ever knowingly permit the operation of something so obviously disastrous. I decided to further research the subject. Before expanding on the utter stupidity of our government’s proverbial ball drop, I would like to give a brief summary of the background of the plant itself.
Longhorn AAP is located in eastern Texas, approximately 3.5 miles from the Louisiana border in the town of Karnack. The plant’s 8,493 acres of land encompasses 451 buildings and borders the Caddo Lake. Established during World War II, the facility was originally intended to support mobilization requirements for the war efforts, however the plant’s missions changed with the evolution of time.
1945-52: The plant was listed on standby status and used to produce and destroy missiles.
1952: The plant was reactivated by Universal Match Corporation during the Korean War. The mission expanded to include loading, assembling and packing rocket motors and pyrotechnic ammunition.
1955: Building 3 on the plant site was designated to produce solid propellant rocket motors.
1959: A Main Rocket Motor Assembly Building was constructed along with a Static Test Building.
1977: The plant was designated a CORE facility for production of solid propellant rocket motors and pyrotechnic ammunition during the Vietnam War.
Present: Current workload includes loading, assembly, and pack-out of illuminating munitions, infrared flares, signals and simulators. The plant is currently listed as inactive under the management of Thiokol Corporation.
A chemical test of the vicinity decades after the plant’s construction revealed hazardous levels of trinitrotoluene (TNT), trinitrobenzene, arsenic, barium, chromium, and lead. These toxic wastes from the production facilities were washed into ponds, including the Caddo Lake, or buried in landfills. As we know from Dr. Pillar’s lecture, Caddo Lake serves as the main source of drinking water for the surrounding communities. Hmmm… I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t think I want to be drinking TNT. As I continued to research the current state of the facility, one study claimed that the “exposure situations pose no apparent public health hazard either because people are not likely to come into contact with site contaminants or because institutional controls are sufficient to protect human health.” How is that possible?! The site has been collecting toxic waste for over 65 years and will take another 100 to repair. Also, hunting is prohibited on the site for fear that any game that would potentially be converted into food sources would be infected with the hazardous chemicals. I’ve never been so glad to be a vegetarian. Why if the exposure pose no public threats would the government be paying millions of dollars in tax payers’ money to execute pump and treat systems to cleanse the groundwater?? Seriously, go watch Erin Brockovich and chew this over for a while. Wow.