ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. (KWCH) Update: November 11 4:45 p.m.
Protesters are fighting to stop the planned chemical tests at a nearby facility. The tests will be in Oklahoma but even across state lines, residents say it's too close.
In the past week, many in Ark City have raised concerns after The Department of Homeland Security announced plans to release chemical and biological materials at the Chilocco Indian School.
On Sunday, protesters focused on bringing awareness to what's happening with the ultimate goal of stopping the tests.
The Department of Homeland Security has made the plans for outdoor chemicals testing available on their website, and while they say that the chemicals they'll be using are harmless - many in Ark City still worry.
One of the conditions of the proposed tests requires that the wind direction be from the South between 2 to 12 miles per hour - something many in Ark City say will bring the chemicals right to them.
Eyewitness News spoke with some that say that in the past, chemicals deemed safe to use were later found to be harmful - and they don't want that to happen here.
"You have both people that think that it's not gonna damage or bother us and then you have other people, you know that have children that live here, work here, grow their crops here, that in the long-run are gonna pay the price."
Organizers say today is the first of many protests they plan to organize leading up to the start of those tests in January.
Some Arkansas City residents are concerned about outdoor testing the Department of Homeland Security will perform next year near the town of Newkirk, Okla.
According to a DHS document, the DHS Science & Technology Directorate (S&T) will conduct a program called the Hazards of Dynamic Outdoor Releases (HODOR) at the Chilocco Indian Agricultural School (Chilocco campus).
The proposed site is located 7 miles north of Newkirk, Okla. and about 6 miles south of Arkansas City, Kan.
During January and February 2018 and then again during June and July, 2018, the HODOR will use two different inert powders to simulate the behavior of harmful biological materials as they move from the outdoors into buildings.
Several people who live in the area say they are worried about the impact the testing might on the air quality and water supply. They have even started a petition on Change.org to prevent the project from moving forward.
"We are simply opposed to any plan of any testing of chemicals in this area," reads the petition. "There is no way that you could possibly know the long-term effects that this may have on our community".
Sheila Malone, who lives two miles east of Chilocco says she wants to know more about plans to relase inert chemicals at the site.
"We have a farm. "We have, you know a pond for our cattle and stuff. Is that going to affect that?" she asks.
The DHS says the Chilocco campus was chosen "based on the DHS-desired characteristics, as well as the ability to release materials at a distance from these buildings that minimize environmental impact and public exposure."
The agency says the testing is similar to other activities that have occurred at the Chilocco campus. Further, "no adverse impacts to the human environment have been identified or reported during similar S&T aerosol testing in urban, densely-populated subway systems."
The public has 30 days, beginning Nov. 8, to weigh-in on the testing. Comments must be submitted by Dec. 8 to firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or by mail to S&T CBD Mail Stop 0201, 245 Murray Ln SW, Washington, DC 20528-0201. The public is asked to include their name and address, and use the subject line, "Outdoor Testing at Chilocco."
Thursday evening, Congressman Ron Estes (R-Kan.) issued the following statement about the chemical testing:
"I'm monitoring the situation closely and have been in contact with officials at the Department of Homeland Security," said Rep. Estes. "As a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, I have numerous questions regarding this proposed test. While it's important for our federal agencies to test their abilities in response to threats, we need to be one hundred percent certain this test is safe for the residents of South Central Kansas."