The Christian Peacemaker Teams has come to Jonesborough to begin a weeklong series of events surrounding the production of depleted uranium at Aerojet Ordnance.
Seven individuals, including Cliff Kindy, the coordinator for the CPT depleted uranium campaign, will spend the week talking to religious leaders, veterans and officials about the side-effects of depleted uranium on local residents and military personnel. Today at 2 p.m., CPT will hold a news conference on the courthouse steps in Jonesborough to release the findings of soil, sediment and water samples taken in the area surrounding Aerojet Ordnance, 1367 Old State Route 34. The group has researched health risks related to DU emissions from Aerojet since 2006 and Kindy says the samples will make a big difference in comparison to previous CPT delegations in Jonesborough.
“At this time we’re focused on DU munitions, which doesn’t stop killing,” Kindy said. “It does a great job of piercing the armor on tanks, any shell would do the job, but once it does that job, then it goes into the rain and contaminates the soil.”
Mary Jane Greene, Aerojet’s human resource manager, said she has no comment as to whether the company will participate in talks led by CPT, but did wish them an enjoyable trip.
“With Jonesborough being a tourist area, we can’t comment on each group that comes to visit,” she said. “We hope that they enjoy their visit to the area.”
The purpose of CPT’s delegation is to stop the production of DU, specifically the penetrator core that comes from Aerojet’s Jonesborough location. And while Kindy says that’s a feasible goal, he and other CPT members understand that it would cause unemployment. He said the skilled employees at Aerojet could transition into other production work.
“Sometime we have to put people over money,” said Kindy, a resident of North Manchester, Ind. “When the complicating costs include birth defects for families who have been exposed to DU, there’s no way it’s worth it morally, financially or in terms of defense. That practice cannot be defended.”
The harmful effects of DU is what drives CPT to continue to send delegations to Jonesborough. Kindy says severe genetic-related health problems and cancer can result from exposure to DU. Michael Ketterer, of Northern Arizona University, will report any findings of contamination near Aeroject during the news conference, which is open to the public and will also feature talks on the regulatory oversight and health consequences of DU by Maj. Doug Rokke, a former depleted uranium project director for the Army.
Rokke and a former Aerojet worker John Paul Hasko also will be panelists at a forum hosted by CPT at East Tennessee Sate University on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Rogers-Stout Hall room 102.
Kindy says he prays that use of DU will cease, but it depends on the response of locals.
“It is an experiment,” he said. “There’s no step-by-step book on how to do this. We try different things and sometimes they don’t work so we’ll try something else.
“Things will change, but it would be nice not to wait 50 years.”