Sep 26, 2011 7:27 PM by David Ortiviz

Pueblo's chemical stockpile on countdown to destruction

For more than half a century the Pueblo Chemical Depot has stored 2,600 tons of mustard agent--a lethal chemical used during World War I. But in just a few years all those weapons will be destroyed and managers say safety is the focus. "Protection of the workers and the public as well as the environmental compliance is paramount to us," said Tiller. "It's one of our core values."

In 2004, the U.S. Army broke ground on a $3.5 billion project to destroy the stockpile. Construction is about 80% complete on the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant. The plant's scheduled to be finished in 2014 and full operations should start in 2015. Meanwhile the mustard agent remains in highly secure, earth-covered igloos located next to the plant.

They plan to use a process called neutralization to destroy the stockpile. It's a chemical reaction that makes the mustard agent safe. "That's going to work," said Tiller. "We have great faith in that, the fact that was done at Aberdeen (Maryland) on a similar quantity of agent, with no issues. Which tells us as long as we can access the agent, get it into the reactor, it's going to get destroyed," he added.

To ensure safety they'll use robots to take apart the explosive weapons. Also, plant managers say air emissions will be constantly monitored and filtered to meet state health requirements. "There will be no harm to the environment or the air that we're breathing," said Tiller.

Any secondary waste will be taken to a landfill, which hasn't been determined yet. Then the massive destruction plant should be taken apart.

The U.S. Army is under an international treaty deadline to get rid of all of its chemical stockpile by 2017. The only other remaining stockpile in the U.S. is near Richmond, Kentucky.



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