By Mark W. MesesanJuly 16, 2013
DESERET CHEMICAL DEPOT, Utah (July 16, 2013) -- In a special U.S. military ceremony, Deseret Chemical Depot was formally closed July 11. Yet with hundreds of workers - both government and contractors - still employed here, the gates remain open.
U.S. Army officials are calling it a transfer of property - taking Deseret Chemical Depot's, or DCD's, 19,000-plus acres and transferring them to nearby Tooele Army Depot, known as TEAD.
Brig. Gen. Kristin French, one day removed from installing a new TEAD commander, today brought back some old history while ushering in some new -- renaming Deseret Chemical Depot as Tooele Army Depot, South Area, the name the depot had between 1969 and 1985. But the legacy, she said, was the work carried out here.
"What employees have accomplished here in the last 70 years is nothing short of amazing," French said, addressing a crowd of about 300 workers, former workers and project stakeholders outside Building 5108. "I commend all of you who have carried out this critical mission. For the first five decades you safely stored a majority of the nation's stockpiles of chemical agent weapons, and for the last two decades you have safely destroyed the country's largest chemical weapons stockpile. You made a huge contribution to the attainment of our commitment to the Chemical Weapons Convention Treaty, and this is just one lasting legacy."
Don Barclay, director of the Army's Chemical Materials Activity, noted he's had 20 years of experience at DCD, including having directed CAMDS, which he said had a critical part in developing not only incineration technologies for chemical weapons destruction, but also neutralization technologies which soon will be used at the two last remaining U.S. chemical stockpile sites in Pueblo, Colo., and Blue Grass, Ky.
"It wasn't always smooth, but over time the commitment to safety - public safety, work force safety - and environmental compliance, the local and federal team came together and aligned well to destroy chemical agents, Barclay said. "And that pattern was duplicated across our continental United States' chemical demilitarization facilities. So the Army learned that from you."
Barclay credited communication transparency across the depot as a key part of the ultimate success of the mission, acknowledging such transparency was not easy, but it helped shape public opinion away from the early notion of the Army and its TOCDF contractors as "incinerator people, evil demil incinerators."
DCD's last commander, Col. Mark Pomeroy, in a last symbolic act before his own retirement ceremony, rolled up the DCD flag and placed it in a canvas case, closing the depot exactly 70 years from the date in 1943 it first opened, timing he thought would be "neat."
Pomeroy noted workers over the years had a part in storing and destroying more than 1.1 million chemical munitions, containing more than 13,600 tons of agent.
"These were terrible weapons and their elimination at DCD has made the world a safer place and most definitely a safer place for the surrounding community," Pomeroy said. "Eliminating these weapons was a team effort that spanned over five generations that included exceptional depot workers that safely stored, made over 24,000 safe deliveries to TOCDF; the Field Office that provided government oversight for the demil operations; the outstanding team from URS and the supporting contractors that operated the TOCDF and destroyed the chemical weapons; and the incredible support of the local community and the State of Utah, and the resolve of our great nation to destroy these terrible weapons."