Consider that sentence, taken from a story in last Friday’s Star, a gut-punch of reality for those who closely follow Calhoun County’s long history with chemical weapons.
The ANCA — the Anniston Chemical Activity — is an Anniston Army Depot organization charged with safe storage and transportation of the facility’s cache of Cold War-era munitions.
Those weapons, we’re proud to say, are no longer with us.
Nevertheless, each day that passes brings this community closer to the time when not only are there no weapons, but there also is no incinerator and no skilled workers to handle them. As we’ve long known, the byproduct of improving community safety is the dismantling of a work force that, from a strict task-at-hand point of view, is no longer needed.
Thus, that aforementioned sentence — attributed to Army spokesman Mike Abrams — is a stark reminder of two things: (1.) the incinerator’s slowly dwindling work force, and (2.) the job those highly skilled employees have done at ridding northeast Alabama of igloo after igloo of aging, leaking killer weapons.
This community — particularly Anniston — can’t thank them enough.
That said, it’s unfair that Anniston’s past contains layer after layer of environmental-pollution concerns, some of which still rile up the city’s worst critics. In recent weeks, City Councilman Ben Little has reiterated his plans to sue Solutia if its representatives won’t come to the negotiating table to discuss further public compensation for the effects of Monsanto-era PCBs pollution.
As a Star story revealed last year, more than $3.2 billion has been spent in the last decade in the greater Anniston area just to clean its air, water and soil from things like PCBs and chemical weapons. And that says nothing of the financial settlements that, for some residents who suffered from environmental pollution, have reached well into the thousands.
The Little way is not the way we should go. Further lawsuits — and threats of them — are useless. Cleanup has improved our land, our health and our safety. Settlements have been reached through the courts. It is time to look to Calhoun County’s next life.
In years to come, this area’s forward-minded will be thankful for these efforts and decisions. Not all of them have been perfect. The process hasn’t been seamless. But because of the work of people such as the incinerator’s crews, Calhoun County is better today than it was before.