Judge Orders Cambridge Lab to Halt Nerve Gas Research Despite Appeals
A state Superior Court judge last week upheld a disputed city ordinance that forced a local research laboratory to has it testing of nerve gas agents.
Judge Robert J. Hallisey refused to grant the Arthur D. Little Inc. (ADL) an injunction to permit continued testing of the nerve gay, but his decision did not make clear when the laboratory had to cease testing.
The Cambridge ordinance prohibits the testing of nerve gas and other chemical warfare agents within city limits.
The decision is a defeat for ADI, which had been studying the poisonous gases for more than a year under a Department of Defense Contract.
$1 Million Bust
Friday's ruling officially renders the company's brand new $1 million Levins Laboratory, specially designed for the safe testing of the toxic gases, inactive for an indefinite period of time.
Arthur D. Little immediately filed appeals and observes predicted that the issue of nerve gas testing in Cambridge may lead to protracted and expensive legal battle that may go all the way to the U>S> Supreme Court.
Scott P. Lewis, a Boston attorney representing the city, said yesterday that ADL's contention that the nerve gas testing ban was "arbitrary and capricious" would probably land the case in the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.
To the Highest Court:
The issue of federal supremacy--that the local nerve gas testing ban was preempted by federal law because it operated under a Department of Defense contract may end up in the nation's highest court, according to Lewis.
"The care issues of first impression which have never been settled in a court of law before," said City Councilor David Sullivan.
"If we didn't think we had a reasonable chance of winning an appeal, we would be spending this much money on lawyer," said Alma Inner, an ADI spokesperson. "We will do what we have to do because of our contractual obligations and concern for public good," she added.
"It was correct for a community to address itself to these issues," but, Triner said. ADI "regrets the time and energy the city is investing in this process."
ADL has offered to help the city draw up regulations which would allow limited testing of toxic agents, while restoring the community's confidence in industrial research, Triner added.
"This is one of the very few issues in this city where there is one hundred percent unanimity on what should be done," added City Councilor Alice Wolf, who said the toxic agents pose "a clear and present danger" to the community.
ADL is testing toxic substances 10,000 times more lethal than any other research laboratory in the city, said Edward Cyr, a member of Cambridge's 16- member scientific advisory board.
Calling ADI an example of "corporate irresponsibility," Cyr added that the firm is only out to get one of the 18 federal contracts for nerve gas research which have been awarded in the past two years.
"This is a misguided corporate policy that cannot in the long run win," said City Councilor Francis H. Duehay '55, who noted that the city is currently considering regulating, not banning, about a dozen supertoxins.
Triner said that ADI has considered moving out of Cambridge and that the city would have no trouble locating other firms to pay municipal taxes.
"It certainly would say something about Cambridge if we chose to leave," Triner said, adding that ADI has advised the Center for Disease Control about building a new high security laboratory in Atlanta.
ADL president John F. Magee will meet Thursday night with residents of the neighborhood surrounding the laboratory and members of the North Cambridge Toxic Alert Group.