From Hill and Ponton
Fort McClellan, AL, served as training and scientific research ground for some of the most volatile chemical, biological, and radiological materials used by the US military. As the US was gearing up to enter WWI, President Woodrow Wilson purchased the property, and it was utilized to train and mobilize troops headed off to the Great War. After the armistice, it served as a demobilization station until 1922 when it began its long history in the training of chemical warfare with the assignment of a Chemical Warfare Service Officer who inspected the installation’s suitability for chemical warfare training and demonstrations. In 1999, the installation was closed due to BRAC legislation. This legislation included a requirement for environmental cleanup before the transfer of the property to public domain status. Almost 100 years after the creation of Fort McClellan, in 2013, an Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) assessment stated that the property is “not expected to result in an increased cancer risk or other harmful health effects in people living in the neighborhoods outside the perimeter of the former PCB manufacturing facility (Monsanto).”
Fort McClellan’s toxic exposure history is long and involved outside industry as well as the US Army’s own chemical, biological, and radiological materials. Starting in the 1920s, Fort McClellan and Anniston, AL, were home to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), mace, tear gas, mustard gas, white phosphorus, Cobalt (Co-60), uranium, plutonium, Cesium (Cs-137) Napalm-B, Agent Orange, nerve and blister agents. Over 600,000 troops were exposed between 1927 and 1999 to an array of toxins through direct exposure in chemical weapons training, or indirect exposure through the air, soil, and water that was polluted by the toxins from the installation and the nearby Monsanto plant. Monsanto settled a class action lawsuit with the residents of Anniston, AL in 2003, but veterans who lived and trained at the fort were not included in that lawsuit. Read about additional superfund cleanup sites at Army and Air Force bases in our blog “Is Jet Fuel Another Agent Orange?”
From Veterans Affairs
- Radioactive compounds (cesium-137 and cobalt-60) used in decontamination training activities in isolated locations on base.
- Chemical warfare agents (mustard gas and nerve agents) used in decontamination testing activities in isolated locations on base.
- Airborne polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from the Monsanto plant in the neighboring town.
PCBs and the Monsanto chemical plant
Fort McClellan today
Veteran health care and compensation benefits
- DoD Fort McClellan website
- Environmental Cleanup Program Fact Sheets
- McClellan Land Use Map
- Chemical Fact Sheets
- Environmental Baseline Survey
- ATSDR Health Consultation: Airborne PCBs in Anniston
- Federal Register Notice of Intent (2001)
- EPA Superfund Webpage: Anniston, AL