Watchdog Group Calls for Improved Oversight of Dugway Proving Ground

(KCPW News)  A local watchdog group is calling for both state and federal investigations of an incident at Dugway Proving Ground. In late January a vial of a deadly nerve agent was misplaced, causing a twelve-hour lock down of the facility. Steve Erickson, Director of the Citizens Education Project, calls information his group has received about the incident “disturbing.”

“It appears that the Governor’s office was not notified during this event, and that there was inadequate notification at best of the Utah Department of Public Safety and no notification whatsoever of the first responders in the Tooele County Sheriffs Office,” says Erickson.

Erickson says information obtained through a GRAMA request shows members of both the Governor’s Office and the Tooele County Sheriffs Office learned of the incident from television news reports. The Utah Department of Public Safety and Utah Division of Homeland Security failed to respond to GRAMA requests, and Erickson says he has yet to receive a response to a freedom of information request from Dugway Proving Ground.

The Citizens Education Project is calling for both state and federal investigations of the incident to determine whether there are procedures in place to inform first responders and keep the public safe during such incidents.

“If there are procedures, they weren’t very well followed. And if there aren’t, then there need to be new procedures created and developed so that we have assurances that the public is as protected as can be possible when dealing with these weapons of mass destruction,” says Erickson.

Erickson says it may be time to consider re-establishing a Dugway oversight committee that was in place during the administrations of Governors Bangerter and Leavitt.