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Newkirk citizens plan meeting to oppose biochemical testing nearby

NEWKIRK, Okla. - Concerns over chemical testing have a community banding together in opposition. Meetings planned are just part of the protest against the upcoming testing at the Chilocco Indian School.

The Department of Homeland Security announced it would be conducting biochemical warfare testing at the closed school next year. Testing months include January and February, then again in June and July.

According to a published 58-page assessment of the testing, researchers will be releasing inert chemicals into the air and measuring how much of them penetrate the buildings on site.

The assessment states some of the chemicals listed are nontoxic an nonhazardous.

The bio-insecticide "Dipel" is "not considered a hazard by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) when handled appropriately."

But. not everyone is convinced the testing will be harmless.

"Too many crops, too many cattle are out there that it can affect," said Vicky Frank, who grew up at the Chilocco Indian School while it was open. "I want to save the Earth, I want to save the school, the school that I was raised in."

Residents in Newkirk, less than a couple of miles from the site, are also sharing doubts about the testing.

"Whenever you hear somebody say, we're going to be testing chemicals just miles from your home, miles from where you grow livestock, it's scary," said Brittny Smith.

She insists the dense 58-page report is too much to make sense of unless you're versed in the science discussed.

Some of the details, like the researchers' safety gear, are worrying to her.

"They will be having to wear Hazmat suits and respirators in the area that they're testing these chemicals," Smith said.

She and others also worried about the harmful affects of the areas wildlife, insisting some of the species who could be affected, like bald eagles, are not listed as such in the assessment.

"It can't be completely harmless," Smith said. "It can't be completely nontoxic."

With emails to the DHS going unanswered, and no one in Newkirk or the surrounding areas to address concerns, a meeting is planned to get all those with questions in one room.

"We need to come up with a list of concerns as a community," Smith said. "We also need to decide where we're going to go from here. How are we going to react? What are we wanting from Homeland Security?"

The meeting is planned for November 15 at 6 p.m. at the Johnny Ray McCauley Gymnasium next door to the Kanza Wellness Center.

There is also a meeting scheduled for November 16 at 6 p.m. at the Arkansas City, Kansas Senior Center.

News 4 reached out to the Department of Homeland Security and have not yet heard back.