By Ray Downs – UPI
The Department of Homeland Security announced Monday that it will conduct a biological weapons simulation test in a small Oklahoma town, which has unnerved many residents there.
The DHS will conduct its tests at the Chilocco Indian School in Newkirk, Okla., a town of approximately 2,200 people located near the state’s northern border with Kansas. The school will serve as the building for DHS’ Hazards of Dynamic Outdoor Releases testing.
“The HODOR program supports DHS’s strategic goals to detect and recover from biological attacks and inform and support biodefense planning, response, and restoration, particularly in consequence/risk assessment modeling of the indoor hazards posed by outdoor aerosols,”the DHS said in a document about the planned testing, which will take place in 2018.
The DHS assures residents that “all materials are considered nontoxic and nonhazardous,” but not everyone is assured, including government officials.
Rep. Ron Estes, R-Kan., told the Oklahoma Statesman he is “monitoring the situation closely.”
“I have numerous questions regarding this proposed test,” Estes said. “While it’s important for our federal agencies to test their abilities in response to threats, we need to be 100 percent certain this test is safe for the residents of south-central Kansas.”
Newkirk resident Brittney Smith told News 9 she doesn’t believe the DHS is being completely honest about the risks.
“I would like them to do the testing somewhere else and I think that I speak for a lot of the citizens when I say that,” she said.
Resident Brian Hobbs was also skeptical.
“Are we 100 percent sure this is safe? Sometimes they have unintended consequences, like Agent Orange, you know,” Hobbs said.
On Sunday, residents in nearby Ark City took to the streets to protest the planned tests. One of the conditions of the tests is that wind speeds be be between 2 and 12 mph, which they say could bring the chemicals to them.
“You have both people that think that it’s not gonna damage or bother us and then you have other people, you know that have children that live here, work here, grow their crops here, that in the long-run are gonna pay the price,” a protester told KWCH-TV.
The DHS said no “significant adverse impacts to air quality resources are anticipated.”