Utah wildlife biologist sues U.S. Army for toxic exposure

Apr 20 2012 - 1:23pm

SALT LAKE CITY -- A Utah wildlife biologist waited 10 years for doctors to suggest her neurological disorders may have been caused by fieldwork she did outside a U.S. Army depot that tested chemical and biological weapons.

Now, Carolyn Bayless is waiting for a judge to decide if she can sue the Army for supposedly causing her disability.

It took years for Bayless to learn the area in which she worked was tainted by chemical and biological agents, she said, and years longer for doctors to correctly diagnose her health problems and suggest she was poisoned by leftover chemical agents.

Government lawyers deny her allegations, say the $5 million lawsuit was filed too late, and are asking a judge to throw it out of court.

U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball reserved a decision after arguments in Salt Lake City on Thursday.

Bayless says she started developing symptoms a month after her field work was completed in 1997.

She worked along the borders of Dugway Proving Ground, established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1942 to study chemical and biological warfare. The federal installation stretches over more than 1,200 square miles to the Nevada border.

The Utah Department of Wildlife Resources confirmed Bayless was a wildlife technician who worked with a range crew in the summer of 1997.

By 2000, Bayless said she had become too disabled to work. Her doctors say she suffers from fatigue, blurred vision, a rapid heart rate and tight chest, breathing difficulty, nausea, muscle pain, dry skin and a history of miscarriages, according to court records.

Dugway spokesman Paula Thompson said the Army doesn't know anything about Bayless' work and little more about any toxic dangers outside its borders on federal range land.

The lawsuit says some of the Army's chemical and biological shells were lobbed over Dugway's borders and the Army Corps of Engineers burned those areas in unsuccessful efforts to sterilize them.

Dugway can't warn anybody to stay off lands outside the installation, an area also frequented by UFO hunters, Thompson said.

"It's unfortunate anyone has health problems from anything," she said Friday.

In court papers, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Nelson said Bayless should have filed her lawsuit within two years of suffering health problems -- or at least within two years of suspecting in 2005 that Dugway was the cause of her problems.

 

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