Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Colorado
On December 7, 1941, the entire battleship force of the U.S. Pacific Fleet was severely damaged or destroyed by Japanese warplanes in a surprise attack which abruptly hurled the United States into World War II. Just half a year after Pearl Harbor, Rommel's forces had plunged 60 miles into Egypt, threatening to extend German control throughout the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, the Japanese gained a strategic foothold on the Aleutian Islands after major victories there in June 1942.
Amid the growing commitment of American forces in World War II, the War Board announced on May 2, 1942, that 19,883 acres of prairie and farmland east of Denver had been selected to be the future site of Rocky Mountain Arsenal, a chemical weapons manufacturing center.
Chemical warfare was nothing new. The first recorded use of war gas was credited to the Spartans in 428 B.C. when they burned tar against the walls of the Acropolis and smoked the Athenians out with fumes. In April 1915, German troops ushered gas warfare into modern history by using "Greek Fire" or chlorine gas against their enemies in World War I. Mustard gas and chlorine gas, two other horrors of modern warfare, also came about during that war.
The impetus behind building the Arsenal stemmed from fears that Germany and Japan would use chemical warfare. As a matter of fact, the Japanese did launch several gas salvos during their attack on China. While we never had to use lethal chemical weapons during World War II, the government felt that if it could accelerate it's own chemical weapons program and begin producing the bombs on a large scale, Rocky Mountain Arsenal could serve as an effective deterrent. Said Major General William Porter, chief of the Chemical Warfare Service,
"It is fully recognized that the best insurance against an attack by chemical agents lies not only in gas masks and protective clothing but also in the ability to retaliate immediately."
That ability, Porter concluded, would be supplied by Rocky Mountain Arsenal.
Many factors led to choosing the Arsenal's location. The Army needed a place far removed from any coastline and, therefore, safe from enemy attacks. But they also needed an area with established transportation routes. With its numerous railroad routes, highways, and even an airport, the Denver area was an ideal location. By situating the Arsenal north and east of Denver, the Army was able to build the facility a safe distance from the metropolitan area.
Construction of the Arsenal began on June 30, 1942.
Thousands of laborers with half a dozen private firms from as far away as Alabama and California worked around the clock, clearing farmland, pouring concrete foundations, and erecting walls. Most activity revolved around the South Plants area, a grouping of warehouses and production buildings just south of December 7th Avenue, the main road entering the Arsenal.
Six months after beginning construction, the first fully operational production building was activated, a full year ahead of schedule. Six firms, including Whitman, Requardt & Smith; H.K. Fergusson Company; C.G. Kershaw Contracting Company; Swinerton & Walberg; H.A. Kulijian & Company; and E.I. de Pont de Nemours & Company were awarded the Army and Navy's highest tribute to war service on the homefront, an "E" for excellence.
Although the plant was constructed using state-of-the-art materials and equipment and cost more than $50 million, close attention was paid to conserving money. At the award ceremony, Colonel Thomas Farrell, executive officer of the construction division of the Army Engineers in Washington D.C., called the swift construction of the Arsenal a "truly American accomplishment," and announced that the economy of the whole operation saved the government more than $11 million.
One of the reasons so much emphasis was placed on speed was the fact that Germany already had a well-developed chemical weapons program. "It was Hitler," declared Farrell, "who decried the United States as a 'nation of softies' - who said we could never catch up with his 10-year program. He knows better now. In little more than two years, the United States has caught up with--and passed--his vaunted production." During its first year, the South Plants operated around-the-clock, and the United States out-produced the Axis powers by 150 percent.
From the beginning, there were three major war chemicals made at RMA: mustard gas, Lewisite, and chlorine gas. Chlorine gas, once a much-feared weapon in World War I, had become dated by adequate protective measures and was manufactured at the Arsenal only because it was also used in mustard and Lewisite. Mustard gas, used during World War I, was so named because it smells like mustard or garlic. Lewisite, the more lethal of the two, smells like geraniums and was manufactured by combining chlorine, acetylene, and arsenic.
Because of the deadly operations underway, protection of the workers was a priority. Newspaper reporters who visited the Arsenal donned full protective clothing: coveralls, gloves, shoes, a hood, and gas masks before touring the plants. Describing one visit in April 1943, Jack Carberry of the Denver Post remembered seeing
"mountains of sulfur, used in the manufacture of mustard gas, being conveyed to hoppers and other gigantic mountains of rock salt being unloaded near the brine tanks which start it on its way to the chlorine gas stills, mixers, and condensers."
The Arsenal was also producing other varied munitions including incendiary bombs. U.S. troops confronting heavily fortified Japanese soldiers in an island-to-island combat campaign were calling for more and more fire-bombs which were effective in that type of fighting. The most common type of fire-bomb was the napalm bomb, an explosive mix of jellied gasoline which later gained notoriety in the Vietnam War. On March 9 and 10, 1945, U.S. forces dropped more than 1,500 tons of napalm bombs, all produced at Rocky Mountain Arsenal, on Tokyo. The resulting firestorm destroyed enormous sections of the city. By the end of the war, RMA had produced more than 100,000 tons of incendiary munitions.
One of the more unusual and lesser known side-missions of RMA during World War II had nothing to do with munitions at all. With the large number of German soldiers being captured in North Africa, the Army decided to establish a prisoner-of-war camp on the Arsenal. The camp, known as the Rose Hill POW camp, was operated between November 6, 1943 and April 1, 1946. During this time, it held as many as 300 German prisoners. Stapleton Airport's north-south runway now covers the Rose Hill site.
Today the buildings of the South Plants lie dormant. Weeds choke the rain gutters, pigeons flit in and out through broken windows, and moss grows thick on the shaded cement floors. But during the long years of World War II, they were never idle.
The United States and Russia emerged from World War II as competing "super powers." According to Soviet ideologues, "If communism ran its natural course, it would eventually lead to world domination." Such Cold War rhetoric created a deep-seeded fear of an unprovoked attack by the Soviet Union in the minds of most Americans. This anxiety was further heightened by the March 1951 conviction of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg for passing atomic secrets to the Soviet Union, and Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy's controversial allegations of highly-placed "communist sympathizers" within the U.S. Government. These events helped fuel the tensions that played a major role in the chemical weapons build-up at Rocky Mountain Arsenal during the 1950s.On August 2, 1950, the Denver Post reported that "RMA commander, Col. C.M. Kellogg had received verbal orders from Washington to reactivate the Arsenal." The Arsenal had been on stand-by status since May 1947. However, in light of the Soviet Union's expansionist foreign policy goals since World War II and communist North Korea's invasion of South Korea on June 25, 1950, the reactivation order was well-received by the public.On October 30, 1950, the Arsenal officially went back on wartime status.During the Korean War, RMA manufactured white phosphorus-filled munitions, artillery shells filled with distilled mustard, and incendiary cluster bombs.Production increased rapidly throughout the early 1950s. On August 18, 1951, Lt. Col. Donald P. Smith, Arsenal executive officer, told the Denver Post, as well as newspapermen from NATO countries, that "the Arsenal can turn out millions of incendiary bombs a year when operating at full capacity."Six months before the end of the Korean War, the Rocky Mountain News reported that applications were being accepted at RMA and personnel for the chemical plant were needed immediately. Arsenal commander, Col. A.W. Meetze, was quoted by the News as saying that "at present there are 1,500 civilian employees at the plant. Expanding production will require the Arsenal to almost double the number of workers."
After the Korean War ended in 1953, McCarthy's indiscriminate finger-pointing (including accusations that high-ranking Army officials and even President Truman were "aiding communists") led to his censure by the Senate in 1954. While some believed his fears of a "communist conspiracy within the government" had reached paranoiac proportions, the Soviet threat to world peace could hardly be ignored.In March 1954, while the Soviet Union was tightening its grip on the "Iron Curtain," the Denver Post quoted an Arsenal spokesman who announced that RMA "is working round the clock, seven days a week in full production of a weapon as deadly as the atomic bomb and as frightening...GB nerve gas." This deadly chemical agent was produced at the North Plants in a secret installation constructed between 1951 and 1953.Between 1953 and 1957, RMA was the major site for the free world's production of GB nerve agent. Contaminated wastes, which were a byproduct of these production activities, had to be dealt with. Prior to 1956, waste products were pumped into various unlined evaporation ponds, a common industrial disposal practice during the time. However, by 1956 the amount of waste liquids generated at the Arsenal exceeded the capacity of these reservoirs. The Army's response was to construct a man-made waste holding evaporation pond, known as Basin F. This pond had a capacity of 243 million gallons and had a sealed, 3/8-inch thick asphalt liner. Vitrified clay pipes with chemically sealed joints carried liquid wastes to the basin. This lined pond represented state-of-the-art contamination control methods of the time.By the late 1950s, RMA was primarily engaged in various demilitarization programs. In mid-1957, civilian cutbacks at the Arsenal reduced operations workers to nearly 600. In July of that year, it was announced that "severe cutbacks in military spending will place Denver's Rocky Mountain Arsenal on only a standby basis in production of war munitions." Subsequently, the RMA commander informed local newspapers that "efforts will be made to lease Arsenal facilities for production in private industry." Actually, the Army was merely increasing its efforts on behalf of a lease program in existence at the Arsenal since the mid-1940s.Under a previous lease agreement, Julius Hyman and Company began producing pesticides at the Arsenal. In 1952, Shell Chemical Company acquired Julius Hyman and Company and continued to produce agricultural pesticides until 1982. By March 1958, the Army was officially requesting permission to lease even more of the Arsenal to private interests. At this time, the government was also giving serious consideration to an Air Force request for a nuclear power plant at RMA. This was due, in part, to the government's decision to accelerate its efforts to develop nuclear-powered rockets in response to the Soviet's successful launching of Sputnik I in October 1957.Coinciding with the termination of chemical munitions production at RMA, a Rocky Mountain News article dated December 27, 1957, cited the development by a local research firm of "a secret super-fuel to give U.S. bombers a hypersonic push and power rockets to space"--and the space race was on! The article further speculated on the possibility that it was already in production at the Arsenal--a claim RMA officials refused to substantiate.Though rocket fuel production wouldn't play a major role in the Arsenal's history until the next decade, the wastes generated by intense chemical munitions production had already taken their toll. By mid-1959, federal and local government agencies initiated investigations into growing complaints of underground water pollution north of the Arsenal. As 1960 dawned, the effects of Arsenal contaminants had become paramount in the minds of Denver citizens, as well as government policy makers. Controlling the spread of contaminant wastes has influenced policy decisions regarding cleanup activities at the Arsenal to the present day.
Demilitarization programs begun at the Arsenal in the previous decade proceeded on schedule through the early 1960s.
However, the production of GB nerve agent and rocket propellants continued throughout most of the decade.
The successful space flight of Alan B. Shepard in May 1961, the first American in space, had taken some of the sting out of the Sputnik "incident." But the Cuban Missile crisis of 1962, which threatened to place Soviet missiles at our back door and tested the mettle of our nation's youngest president, did little to lessen Cold War hostilities. The emergence of Communist China as a world power and potential ally of the Soviet Union further heightened our concerns and gave added impetus to the Titan Missile program.
Communist "super-power" support of North Vietnam's aggression toward anti-Communist South Vietnam made it clear to the American public that we had to remain vigilant. Subsequently, the then current emphasis on modernization of U.S. non-nuclear war materials was reflected in the tremendous increase in weapons contracts at the Arsenal in the mid-1960s. Government officials realized additional precautions were needed to contain the contaminants from increased production and the ongoing demilitarization of obsolete munitions at Rocky Mountain Arsenal. Officials were equally serious about dealing with the ground water migration of contaminants beyond the Arsenal's boundaries.
In response to increasing off-post contamination, the Army Chemical Corps considered a proposal early in 1960 to sink a well two miles deep for disposal of chemical wastes at RMA. U.S. Representative Byron Johnson of Colorado told the Denver Post that "the plan is to pump waste liquids down the well under pressure and dispose of them permanently with no leakage into ground water near the surface." While the well could not remedy the already contaminated water supply surrounding the Arsenal, it could "eliminate the possibility of future contamination from continuing operations at the Arsenal."
By June 1961, a Pressure Injection Disposal Well was under construction. Completed in 1962, the well would eventually pump approximately 175 million gallons of treated waste material to a depth of more than 12,000 feet into the earth.
Shell Chemical Company leased several buildings from the Army in 1952. Though many of the contaminants generated at the Arsenal were the direct result of military production and demilitarization programs, a significant portion were the byproducts of Shell's manufacturing efforts.
Throughout the summer of 1964, area newspapers ran stories reporting that native and migratory waterfowl were dying after exposure to polluted Arsenal lakes. It was reported in April that the Colorado Game, Fish, and Parks Commission had voted to file "a strong objection with the Secretary of Defense and Shell Chemical Company protesting heavy duck losses on insecticide-contaminated lakes at Rocky Mountain Arsenal." This complaint, combined with the impact of Rachel Carson's 1962 best-seller, Silent Spring (an influential study about the dangers of the pesticide DDT), increased public awareness and led to a round of serious discussions among all parties concerned.
In June 1964, officials of Shell Chemical Company and Rocky Mountain Arsenal announced plans to put a permanent end to pesticide contamination in industrial lakes at the Arsenal. By early 1965, two of the three lakes had been drained with pumps, and bottom samples were taken to determine contamination levels. After large earth-moving machines removed the contaminated mud--up to 18 inches deep in some areas--it was replaced with clean soil. According to the Denver Post, the Army's decision "to pay the entire cost of the project ($265,000) was based on the fact that the private firm was operating on federal land and using government equipment."
Meanwhile, in mid-1961, the Denver Post reported that the first engine tests for the Titan II Missile program would be conducted two weeks hence. A major improvement in Titan II over the first Titan program was "the use of storable propellants, which cut the time between warning and launch from minutes to seconds." This propellant, called Aerozine 50, was mixed by the Army Chemical Corps at the Arsenal.
The development of powerful rocket propellants consumed a large portion of the Arsenal's production efforts throughout the decade, culminating in man's first walk on the moon in 1969. The Apollo 11 flight was powered by the efforts of the Arsenal's hydrazine plant. According to a July 29, 1969, Rocky Mountain News article, this "liquid mixing facility mixed the liquid propellants which lifted the landing module, Eagle, off the moon, and returned the command module, Columbia, back to earth."
While local newspaper accounts throughout the early 1960s discussed everything from the Arsenal's manufacture of "secret rocket propellants" and the air pollution caused by "routine demolition of obsolete munitions," to claims being filed by local residents for "damage by water pollution from Rocky Mountain Arsenal" and storage of enough nerve gas "to kill every man, woman, and child in the world," one issue remained constant -- "the Russians have it too." We knew they had what we had, but the question which manifested itself in a costly (both in terms of money and the environment) weapons buildup was: how much do they have and how much must we have to serve as an effective deterrent? Stockpiling seemed the only way to ensure our military preparedness.
By the time American combat troops officially entered Vietnam, Arsenal officials had to contend with another possible byproduct of their waste disposal efforts. During mid- to late-1965, a series of earthquakes rocked the Denver area. According to the December 19, 1965, Denver Post, "Deep well pumping at Rocky Mountain Arsenal [may] be responsible for the Denver area earthquakes..." A theory supported by many of the nation's geologists held that the fluids being pumped into the ground via the Pressure Injection Disposal Well since 1962 acted as a lubricant, allowing large blocks of stone beneath the earth to shift more easily. While no definitive cause for the earthquakes could be formulated, the Arsenal shutdown all pumping activities in February 1966.
If the first three decades of the Arsenal's existence were preoccupied with fulfilling its mission of national defense and space exploration, the 1970s saw the Arsenal's primary mission as the disposal of chemical warfare materials. This effort included the incineration of anti-crop agent (TX), mustard agent, explosive components, and the destruction of GB agent by caustic neutralization and incineration.
Producing and stockpiling chemical munitions was a major issue by the time 1970 rolled around. However, this concern was but a small portion of the much larger "ecological pie."
In June 1972, Stockholm, Sweden hosted the first United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. This massive effort to improve the declining quality of the environment was heavily politicized and did little more than promote a worldwide sense of our fragile environment. For example, the 1,200 delegates proposed a 10-year ban on the hunting of whales. However, less than one month later, the International Whaling Commission refused to accept the U.N. proposal, agreeing instead only to reduce the size of the 1973 catch from 40,000 to 34,000. The proceedings also helped to promote a painful awareness of the universal menace posed by pollution when the victims of the Chisso-Minamata disease attended the conference. The debilitating and life-threatening disease resulted from eating fish poisoned by methyl-mercury wastes dumped into Minamata Bay, Japan, by the Chisso Corporation; hence the name of the disease.
On October 8, 1972, the United States initiated a major change in its basic approach to water pollution control by limiting effluent discharges as well as setting water quality standards. The federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972 authorized the expenditure of $24.7 billion for construction of waste treatment plants, and set a national goal of eliminating all pollutant discharges into U.S. waters by 1985.
Against this backdrop of international and domestic concern, the demilitarization of stockpiled munitions and containment of off-post migration of contamination became the Arsenal's most pressing mission throughout most of the 1970s. The Department of Defense announced in February 1970 that "a $14.6 million project for destroying toxic nerve and mustard gas stored at Rocky Mountain Arsenal will begin next fall and be completed in 1973."
Final testing was conducted as preparation for the demilitarization of 3,071 tons of obsolete mustard agent in June 1971. Actual disposal efforts began in July and were completed by October 1973. In June 1971, the Denver Post also reported that "a committee of civilian environmental experts gave its approval to a plan to destroy GB nerve gas at Rocky Mountain Arsenal."
In developing both the mustard and GB gas demilitarization plans, five major principles were adhered to:
* the basic guiding principle was that of absolute safety and security over cost and time considerations; * maximum protection would be provided for all operating personnel; * absolute assurance that any agent accidentally released would be totally contained within the disposal facility; * guarantees that the surrounding population would be completely safeguarded; and * rigid air pollution control standards would be established which were more stringent than levels set by the Colorado Air Pollution Control Act.
The disposal of GB nerve agent began on October 29, 1973, after a two-year delay. When asked by the Denver Post on June 7, 1973, about the delay, Colonel Sampson H. Bass, manager for the Army's demilitarization program, cited
"the necessity for absolute safety and security, intensified concerns about environmental pollution, and the need to develop equipment and technology to do a job that has never been done before."
By June 18, 1974, three shifts of workers were working around the clock destroying GB nerve agent bombs. The destruction of chemical agents created extremely toxic byproducts. Therefore, the discovery of pollutants in off-post drinking water in 1974 led the Colorado Heath Department to order the Army and Shell Chemical "to stop polluting ground and surface waters north of RMA with unauthorized discharges of substances known as DIMP and DCPD." DIMP (diisopropylmethylphosphonate) was an industrial waste produced by the Arsenal during the destruction of nerve gas. DCPD (dicyclopentadiene) was used by Shell Chemical in the manufacture of insecticides.
At this point, the Army began a systematic investigation into the off-post contamination of shallow groundwater. The Army's first and foremost goal was to contain the pollution and prevent additional off-post migration of contaminants. This concern would dominate the military's efforts at the Arsenal throughout the remainder of the decade.
In March 1976, for example, a bill was approved by President Ford which authorized the sale of nearly 2 million pounds of liquid phosgene. The Army supported the passage of this bill for several reasons--not the least of which was avoiding having to dispose of it at the Arsenal. The phosgene was supposed to have been carried in artillery shells but was never used. It was originally scheduled to be destroyed as an obsolete war agent, but since it could be used by private industry in the manufacture of plastic, rubber, and paint products, it was determined that selling it for commercial use (earning the government nearly $4 million) made more sense than destroying it (further complicating the Army's containment effort) at a projected cost to the tax-payer of $7 million.
The tone for the 1980s was set in February 1979 when the Army requested $6.5 million to fund efforts to eliminate the spread of chemical contamination from the Arsenal. The request was made in order to comply with the state's anti-pollution order by erecting impervious barriers to stop the flow of contaminated water from the Arsenal. This demonstrated the Army's commitment to both containment and cleanup which would characterize efforts during the 1980s.
Gradual easing of tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the 1980's culminated in the first missile reduction treaty between the two superpowers on December 8, 1987. On November 9, 1989, several weeks after the resignation of East Germany's long-time Communist leader, Erich Honecker, the East German government opened its borders to the West and allowed thousands of its citizens to pass freely through the Berlin Wall. By the end of 1990, the entire wall had been torn down.
The lessening of cold war antagonisms and the escalating democratic movement in Eastern and Central Europe provided a much-needed opportunity for the U.S. Army to devote its attentions elsewhere. Initiating planning activities dedicated to cleaning up the Arsenal--specifically, the Basin F pond--was high on their list. The decade also saw a considerable amount of litigation activity between the Army, Shell Oil Company, and the State of Colorado.
On December 6, 1982, Anne Gorsuch, head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an Assistant Secretary of the Army, a Shell Oil Company representative, and Dr. Frank Traylor, head of the Colorado Department of Health, made a formal announcement that outlined joint participation in the Army's decontamination plan by the EPA, the state health department, and Shell. However, the accord reached between these groups was short-lived, and they eventually turned to the courts to resolve their differences.
Earlier that year, the Army removed the underground sewer lines to Basin F. To prevent further accumulation of liquid from sewer line discharges and surface runoff, the Army subsequently built a dike around the pond. An enhanced evaporation system was also installed in 1982 to reduce the existing volume of liquid.
The Army initiated litigation against Shell Oil Company in December 1983 to recover natural resource damages and part of the costs of cleanup of the contamination at RMA. The State of Colorado subsequently took legal action against the United States and Shell for damages to natural resources and to recover the State's costs incurred during cleanup activities. Additional legal actions also were filed, and some portions of the litigation remain unresolved.
Even while the courts were determining their respective liabilities, both the Army and Shell Oil Company pressed forward with plans for the comprehensive cleanup of Basin F. A Decision Document concerning Basin F cleanup activities was made available for public comment in December 1987. The interim action objectives included: the prevention of impacts to public health and the environment, the elimination of emissions of volatile chemicals from the Basin, and removal of potential threats to the groundwater.
The permanent cleanup and closure of Basin F began in early 1988. Three 4 million-gallon steel holding tanks and a lined-pond, which held an additional 8.5 million gallons, were used to store the liquid wastes pumped out of the Basin. Over 480,000 cubic yards of contaminated sludge was removed to a secure waste pile approved by the EPA.
Once the contaminated liquids were safely removed from Basin F, the task remained of determining how to permanently dispose of them. More than 40 different technologies were examined by the Army and Shell Oil Company beginning in 1981. Based on these studies and significant public comment, an Army Decision Document released early in 1990 listed Submerged Quench Incineration (SQI) as the unanimous alternative of choice.
SQI is a high-temperature (1,900 degrees Fahrenheit) gas flame incineration process that destroys organic compounds. The process produces brine of molten salts that flow down the incinerator's walls and cool in a water-filled quench chamber. The resultant brine will be treated to reclaim minerals such as copper. The remaining liquid, which essentially is salt water, will be pumped into the ocean. Construction on the SQI began in the spring of 1991, and less than 10 months later, the entire steel structure was completed. Tests soon were conducted to prepare the SQI for active service and it began burning liquid wastes in 1993. The SQI was dismantled in 1995 after successfully incinerating liquid wastes stored at Basin F. Basin F cleanup costs exceeded the $60 million mark.
In order to comply with legal requirements and to create a framework for cooperation despite pending litigation, the Army, the EPA, Shell Oil Company, and other interested parties entered into the Federal Facility Agreement (FFA) in 1989. This administrative agreement, along with CERCLA (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, or "Superfund"), formed a blueprint for the Arsenal cleanup program. The State of Colorado chose not to sign the FFA because it felt it had sufficient legal and technical reasons not to. Nonetheless, the state remains an active participant in the Arsenal's cleanup process. After nearly a decade of litigation, the way was paved for a team effort destined to become the benchmark for toxic cleanup in the 1990s and beyond.
In terms of the international balance of power, the collapse of the Central Soviet government in September was undoubtedly the single most momentous event of 1991 — if not the entire 20th century. Nonetheless, it was the Persian Gulf War which kept Americans riveted to their television screens and never far from the nearest radio.
Our emotions ran the gamut from deeply-felt patriotism for the job our fighting men and women were doing as part of a multinational force, to shock and disbelief at stories of impending gas and chemical attacks by Iraq against Kuwaiti and Israeli civilian populations-- a very real possibility considering Saddam Hussein's use of chemical warfare against his own countrymen. After the cessation of hostilities, we were equally appalled by televised images of Kuwaiti oil fires, which were set by retreating Iraqi troops as they were driven out by U.N. forces, as well as scenes of crude oil, released from Kuwaiti refineries by Iraq, contaminating Persian Gulf shorelines and a multitude of marine life.
This was nothing short of ecological terrorism. The Herculean task of quenching hundreds of air-polluting oil fires took years to accomplish, and the devastation to the region's diverse and interdependent ecosystems will inevitably plague future generations.
While the Middle East was embroiled in a war destined to forever alter the delicate balance between man and his environment, the U.S. Army and Shell Oil Company were continuing to determine and implement Interim Response Actions (IRAs) designed to facilitate the comprehensive cleanup of Rocky Mountain Arsenal and the surrounding area.