DHS to conduct biological weapons tests in Oklahoma next year

By Ray Downs  |  Nov. 14, 2017 at 2:40 AM
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Nov. 14 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Monday it will conduct a biological weapons simulation test in a small Oklahoma town, which has unnerved many residents there.

The DHS will conduct the tests at the Chilocco Indian School in Newkirk, Okla., a town of about 2,200 people near the state's northern border with Kansas. Officials said the school will serve as the building for DHS' Hazards of Dynamic Outdoor Releases (HODOR) testing.

"The HODOR program supports DHS's strategic goals to detect and recover from biological attacks," the department said in a report about the planned testing -- which is scheduled for January and February, and again in June and July.

"To understand the true detection capabilities of the biological sensor, challenge tests with a material must be performed."

Officials said "all [testing] materials are considered nontoxic and nonhazardous," but not everyone is assured.

Rep. Ron Estes, R-Kan., told the Oklahoma Statesman he is "monitoring the situation closely."

"I have numerous questions regarding this proposed test," he said. "While it's important for our federal agencies to test their abilities in response to threats, we need to be 100 percent certain this test is safe for the residents of south-central Kansas."

Newkirk resident Brittney Smith said she doesn't believe the Homeland Security Department is being completely honest about the risks.

"I would like them to do the testing somewhere else and I think that I speak for a lot of the citizens when I say that," she said.

"Are we 100 percent sure this is safe?" resident Brian Hobbs asked. "Sometimes, they have unintended consequences, like Agent Orange [in Vietnam]."

Residents in nearby Ark City protested the planned tests last weekend -- saying winds could spread the chemicals to their areas.

"You have both people that think that it's not going to damage or bother us -- and then you have other people ... that have children, that live here, work here, grow their crops here, that in the long run are going to pay the price," a protester told KWCH-TV.

The DHS said no "significant adverse impacts to air quality resources are anticipated."

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