Ammunitions plant fire raises concerns

Ammunitions plant fire raises concerns
By: Arnold Wyrick

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Il. --Firefighters from Herrin, Marion, and Lake of Egypt responded to a fire emergency at the General Dynamics plant in Williamson County around 12:30am Wednesday morning.  But when they arrived at the factory, they were denied access to the buildings.  So they sat outside the main gate until they got an all clear signal from company officials.

According to a statement released by a company spokesperson, "We thank the Herrin, Marion, and Lake of Egypt Fire Departments for their prompt response and appreciate that their fire fighting expertise was available but not employed."
In fact no one is allowed on the General Dynamics facilities nestled into the woods on Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, without permission from the company.
And now some folks living near the plant worry about what they believe is being produced behind the closed doors, and 10-foot high barbed wire fences.
"I think people ought to be concerned.  I think they're manufacturing depleted uranium down there.  People ought to be more concerned about it for their health," says Jessie Goins of Energy, Illinois.
But in a news release from General Dynamics dated January 2001, the main battle tanks ammunition sent overseas didn't contain any of the chemical.  The company does admit that the U.S. Army uses depleted uranium in it's armor, but never exported it in it's main battle tanks.
Still some folks in Southern Illinois aren't resting easy knowing that explosives are being made near their neighborhoods.
"I think we should be concerned about those things that are destructive, and could have consequences for us.  I mean anything could happen when you're making weapons," says Kenny Shelton of Herrin, Illinois.
No one with the company will talk about what is exactly being produced in their plain looking white warehouses, shrouded in the heavily wooded areas surrounding Crab Orchard Lake.
But outside General Dynamics people are talking about the products being manufactured, and their own safety.
"I'm totally against violence.  I'd just soon see the War in Iraq stopped, and everybody be at peace.  I think it would be a better world for our kids," says Amy Mitchell of Herrin, Illinois.
General Dynamics employs more than 80,000 people worldwide.  And the company reported $21-billion in sales for 2005.