Chemical Weapons

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A dozen environmental, civil rights and veteran groups are expected to file suit to block the opening of a $1 billion chemical weapons incinerator in Alabama.

The organizations contend the aging Cold War-era munitions should be destroyed by chemical neutralization rather than incineration at the Anniston-based facility.

Craig Williams of the Chemical Weapons Working Group contends Anniston is already heavily polluted because of industrial discharges. He said the 23-page suit will be filed Tuesday following a news conference in Birmingham.

Incinerator spokesman Mike Abrams declined comment, but the Army contends incineration is a safe, effective way to destroy chemical munitions.

Attorney Bart Slawson, who represents the Alabama Environmental Council said the organizations must prove only that the incinerator may pose a potential threat to the public to prevail under federal law.

The Bush administration agreed in July to the state's request for $5 million to buy gas mask-like hoods for some 35,000 people living near the incinerator.