By Terry ArthurOctober 28, 2008
CLINTON, Ind. - - On Saturday, Army officials held a ceremony to celebrate the successful completion of chemical stockpile elimination at the Newport Chemical Depot.
The ceremony was hosted by the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency (CMA), the agency responsible for technologies to safely store and eliminate chemical weapons while protecting the public, its workers and the environment; Newport Chemical Depot (NECD), where workers monitored and guarded the stockpile; and the Newport Chemical Agent Disposal Facility (NECDF), where employees neutralized the VX.
Speakers at the event noted that Indiana is now the third U.S. site to completely eliminate the threat posed by the presence of chemical agent stockpiles. Workers at the facility began destroying the stockpile May 5, 2005. NECDF employees confirmed successful neutralization of the last VX batch Aug. 8, 2008.
NECDF Site Project Manager Jeffrey Brubaker opened the ceremony. After an invocation by Ronald C. Henton, Mason & Hanger vice president and general manager, a welcome was provided by CMA Director Conrad F. Whyne. He noted that the project's safety record at the end of neutralization operations was a remarkable 0.53, which is far less than the industry average of 4.6, or even the CMA average of 1.27.
Whyne also invited Vermillion County Judge Bruce Stengel to the stage to accept a plaque bearing an identification plate from the last ton container of VX to leave storage.
The plaque will be placed in a Vermillion County venue to show appreciation for the community's support throughout the Newport project.
Col. Robert B. Billington, Project Manager for Chemical Stockpile Elimination, pointed out the decision to process hydrolysate off site was complicated, but it proved to be the safest and most cost-effective option for Newport. He added that Newport shipped 424 truckloads of hydrolysate, the byproduct of VX neutralization, to Veolia Environmental Services in Port Arthur, Texas, without incident in nearly a year and a half.
"I credit the workers and leadership at CMA, Parsons, Mason & Hanger, Veolia Environmental Services, and Tri-State Motor Transit for remaining steadfast and working together to put safety first throughout this process," said Billington.
Emphasizing the international importance of the facility's accomplishment, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army Carmen J. Spencer said, "The example of the depot and NECDF in completing your missions is truly a model for the world to follow. As we share our destruction technology with the other signatory nations of the world, we will also be sharing the example of your work here."
In addition to a brief depot history and milestone recognition by Lt. Col. William D. Hibner, a member of the contractor work force, Mona Harney, provided reflections on the local Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program (CSEPP) community.
"Because of Newport Chemical Depot and CSEPP, this community is now better prepared to handle all types of emergencies," said Harney. She went on to describe how special and close-knit the Newport work force is.
The final speaker of the day was former Tribune Star reporter and local resident Patricia Pastore. She told of her family ties to the depot throughout four generations, as well as her appreciation of site representatives who provided prompt answers to her questions. "I asked the tough questions because that's what the public wanted to know," Pastore said.
North and South Vermillion High School choirs participated in the event, presenting the National Anthem and other patriotic songs.
The Newport site was one of the nation's chemical weapons stockpiles managed by CMA and stored approximately four percent of the nation's total amount of chemical weapons material. More information on the other stockpiles and the U.S. Army's chemical demilitarization program can be found at www.cma.army.mil.
A specialized Newport milestone page is located at http://www.cma.army.mil/newportcompletion.aspx