ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. (KSNW) – News from Homeland security could put a chemical testing center just miles from Arkansas City and schools. Over the weekend, protesters stood at the Kansas/Oklahoma state line to make it known that they did not want these tests conducted in their backyards.
KSN spoke with some of these concerned residents as well as a science teacher to get an overall understanding of what Ark City residents can expect. The building that these tests will be conducted in is abandoned and has been since the early 70’s. At one point, it was an Indian school, but nowm it’s gated and security access is required to get past the gate. Once inside, you have to drive just under a mile to reach the location, but people that live in the area say, that’s not far enough.
“I was scared,” said resident and mother of two, Ashley Demaree. “My first thought just reading headlines is that it’s scary, and the first article I read didn’t have a lot of information, it was very vague.
Her children attend IXL Elementary school which is just over a mile away from the testing center. She said her biggest concern at this time is not having enough information.
“It said something about inert chemicals, but we don’t know exactly what they are because there’s not a whole lot of information.”
KSN spoke with other residents who also expressed concern for this nearby testing headquarters, but the main theme of the day was confusion. Most people weren’t sure what they were testing or what the effects of those tests could be. KSN spoke to long time science teacher and chemist, David Stinemetze, about some of those questions.
“Some of the biggest threats we face as a nation involve potential biological and chemical weapons,” said Stinemetze. “Like anthrax for example, it’s terribly poisonous and very small amounts can kill a person and so having a defense against that type of weapon is critically important to our national security.”
The Department of Homeland security did release information stating that the tests were solely to experiment on how to be better prepared if the U.S. faces a biological or chemical attack.
“In terms of the chemical agents,” explained Stinemetze. “They try to pick molecules of similar size, molecular weight and that kind of thing but in both cases they’re harmless.”
Over the next 30 days, DHS officials invited the public to chime in on the decision to test in their community.