By Katherine DeWeeseMarch 3, 2009
BLUE GRASS ARMY DEPOT, Ky. -- Operation Swift Solution, the Army initiative to eliminate three deteriorating steel containers storing a mixture of GB nerve agent and its decontamination breakdown products, reached another critical milestone today when two trucks holding the caustic wastewater, known as hydrolysate, generated during the neutralization process were received at Veolia Environmental Services, near Port Arthur, Texas.
The United States received credit under the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty for chemical destruction when the hydrolysate was off-loaded at the Veolia site.
The arrival of the shipment brings the operation one step closer to completion. The project was initiated in late summer 2007, after one of the containers leaked and the others showed similar signs of corrosion. In order to address health and safety concerns and eliminate the possibility of future leaks, a multi-agency team determined a course of action to destroy the containers, resulting in months of stringent planning and testing, coordination with federal, state and local officials, and discussions with community leaders.
"I appreciate the support we've received from the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection, as well as citizens groups, in making this a reality," said Kevin J. Flamm, who manages the Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives program, the agency responsible for destruction of the Army's chemical weapons stockpiles in Kentucky and Colorado. "This has truly been a team effort, and I am proud of the men and women who are working to eliminate this hazard."
Destruction operations on the steel containers, which began Nov. 12, 2008, have been safely conducted to date without incident by a Maryland-based unit from the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, using a transportable neutralization process called the Chemical Agent Transfer System.
"Our team has reached the beginning of the end," said Timothy A. Blades, ECBC director of Operations. "We now are focused on the closure work that must also be carried out with no less strict attention to safety."
Final operations will involve shipping some additional wastes from the BGAD to Veolia, and dismantling of the facilities and equipment for return shipment to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. In addition, the decontaminated steel container halves will be shipped to Rock Island Arsenal, Ill. to be recycled.
"Operation Swift Solution gives us an excellent real-world opportunity to test our procedures for command and control, emergency response notification, inspection and oversight of chemical agent," said Lt. Col. David L. Musgrave, who commands the Blue Grass Chemical Activity and is responsible for safe, secure chemical weapons storage at the depot. "We are all better prepared for the future."
Construction on the full-scale facility to destroy the remainder of the chemical weapons stockpile at BGAD is under way.
Weekly advisories on Operation Swift Solution progress are available at www.pmacwa.army.mil.