Watchdog group says Army failed to notify Utah about lost VX nerva agent

The Citizens Education Project, a military-watchdog group, alleges that the Army did not properly notify Utah public officials when it lost a vial of VX nerve agent in January.

The incident occurred when an inspection at the Dugway Proving Ground, a biological and chemical weapons defense testing facility, uncovered a missing vial of VX agent. The facility went on lockdown for more than 12 hours on January 26 and January 27, according to

“It appears that there was a breakdown in communication,” Steve Erickson, who runs the Citizens Education Project, said, according to “We find this to be not only astonishing but very disturbing.”

At the site, located in Utah’s western desert 90 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, officials immediately closed the gates and detained 2,200 workers while security teams scoured the premises. The vial was recovered at 3 a.m. on January 27. Vehicle inspections continued for safety precautions until 10:30 a.m.

At Dugway, officials blamed the incident on an administrative error that occurred when two testers removed the agent and then accidentally replaced it in the wrong vial, reports.

Erikson said that the response was critically flawed. He said that public documents demonstrate that the Army did not notify Utah’s governor or the county sheriff’s offices that a weapon of mass destruction was loose in the state.

A spokesman for the government told that Dugway failed to follow protocol, but that after the incident the governor met with the commander of the base and discussed the situation.

Dugway communications director Paula Nicholson denied Erikson’s claims, telling that she personally notified Utah Department of Public Safety Commissioner Lance Davenport and sent emails to several other public safety officials.

In Tooele County, emergency management public information officer Wade Mathews said he had to learn about the incident from a member of the media.

“That’s a little frustrating,” Mathews said, reports. “I think the lack of notification was unusual because we have a good working relationship with Dugway Proving Ground which we have been working on improving over the past 15 or 20 years.”

Mathews said that he was not told about the nature of the incident and that he offered his assistance but was refused.