By U.S. Army Element, Assembled Chemical Weapons AlternativesMarch 30, 2009
Operation Swift Solution, the mission to destroy three deteriorating steel containers holding a nerve agent mixture, is expected to wrap up early this year, marking a major milestone for the Kentucky chemical weapons destruction program.
All of the liquid nerve agent mixture previously stored in the containers was safely drained and neutralized on Dec. 18, 2008. The second phase of operations, completed Jan. 18, involved removing and neutralizing any sludge, rust, or other solids that had formed over time inside the containers. The containers were decontaminated and sampled to confirm that no chemical agent contamination remained, and were cut in half in preparation for shipment to a recycling facility. The third and last phase of the mission, now underway, involves processing the legacy and secondary wastes generated during the management and destruction of the containers for off-site shipment, after which the Swift Solution facility will be dismantled and shipped back to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.
After one of the containers leaked in Aug. 2007, and the two others showed signs of corrosion, the U.S. Army Element, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives program brought a proposed solution to the Blue Grass community in January 2008. The plan involved utilizing a team from the Army's Edgewood Chemical Biological Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., and a transportable chemical neutralization system known as the Chemical Agent Transfer System, referred to as CHATS. Since that time, Army teams in Kentucky and Maryland worked closely to develop and coordinate plans with the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection to ensure the operation would be performed safely and in a manner protective of human health and the environment. With the appropriate environmental permits in place, neutralization operations started on Nov. 12, 2008.
Liquid waste, also known as hydrolysate, generated from the neutralization process of the contents of the containers has successfully passed the regulatory requirements for chemical agent destruction and has been transferred to shipping containers known as "eurotainers," which are located on the Swift Solution site. The hydrolysate, along with other secondary waste generated from the destruction process will be shipped to Veolia Environmental Services near Port Arthur, Texas for final treatment and disposal.
Several alternatives for disposal of hydrolysate were carefully considered, with the main criteria being safety, expeditious treatment of all waste using a single technology and no expenditure of labor and resources to research and develop new approaches. With the concurrence of the Kentucky Chemical Demilitarization Citizens' Advisory Commission and its subcommittee, the Chemical Destruction Community Advisory Board, the ACWA program manager made the decision that offsite shipment of all secondary wastes to Veolia Environmental Services best met the determining criteria. This decision applies only to waste generated during Swift Solution and does not set a precedent for disposal of similar waste to be generated in the future by the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant.
For weekly updates on Swift Solution and to see the CAC/CDCAB recommendation on secondary waste treatment, visit http://www.pmacwa. army.mil/ky/swift_solution.htm.