Army continues work to dispose of chemical weapons

By James CampbellJanuary 18, 2022

Chemical weapons destruction in Kentucky.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Operators lift the last palletized 155mm projectile containing VX nerve agent to place it in a tray to begin the destruction process at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant in May 2021.

Between the Colorado and Kentucky plants, the Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives has destroyed 75% of the remaining U.S. chemical weapons stockpile. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo.)
Chemical weapons destruction in Colorado.
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – An ordnance technician uses a lift assist device to move a 155mm projectile containing mustard agent in the Enhanced Reconfiguration Building at the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant in August 2020. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo.) VIEW ORIGINAL

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — Destruction of the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile located in two states has reached the 75% completion mark, with a combined total of more than 2,352 U.S. tons of chemical agent destroyed as of Jan. 14, 2022.

The Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives, or PEO ACWA, is responsible for eliminating what was originally more than 3,136 U.S. tons of weaponized chemical agents stored at the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot, Colorado and the Blue Grass Army Depot, Kentucky.

“Reaching this milestone despite the ongoing challenges of the coronavirus pandemic is an unparalleled achievement,” said Michael Abaie, program executive officer for PEO ACWA, the Defense Department program responsible for destruction of the obsolete weapons. “Our confidence increases with every munition destroyed toward reaching our treaty commitment deadline,” he said. “Our partners in the states and at the U.S. Army depots where the weapons are stored contribute to a team that extends throughout the U.S. chemical demilitarization program. These partnerships continue to drive our success.”

“The 75% destruction threshold is not only a great accomplishment for the ACWA program, but for the PCAPP workforce as well,” said Walton Levi, site project manager, Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant. A systems contractor team led by Bechtel National, Inc. designed, built, tested, is operating and will eventually close the plant in Pueblo.

“I'm extremely proud of our workforce, not only for their contribution to the program, but also for reaching this milestone safely and efficiently,” Levi said.

Between the Colorado and Kentucky plants, the Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives has destroyed 75% of the remaining U.S. chemical weapons stockpile.

"The Blue Grass team has worked very diligently and safely to accomplish this milestone, with great coordination and support from our program partners and the community,” said Dr. Candace Coyle, site project manager, Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant.

The systems contractor at the Blue Grass site, known as the Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass Joint Venture designed, built, and tested is operating and will close the Blue Grass plant.

“I am inspired by the dedication and tenacity of this specialized workforce in achieving this milestone,” Coyle said.

Governor-appointed Citizens’ Advisory Commissions, or CACs, mandated by Congress in 1993 are charged with delivering community input to the chemical demilitarization program.

“It’s good to see the progress being made toward the destruction of these chemical weapons,” said Douglas Hindman, chair, Kentucky CAC. “The military has overcome a lot of problems, including COVID, and has made steady progress. I’m pleased to see that we’re getting close to the end.”

Colorado CAC Chair Irene Kornelly called the milestone “an incredible accomplishment.”

“75% of the chemical agent originally stored at Pueblo and Blue Grass has been destroyed,” Kornelly said. “Credit goes to the people who are at both sites for their diligent work to complete the task.”

Craig Williams, Kentucky CAC member and co-chair of its Chemical Destruction Community Advisory Board, said the Blue Grass community has had a lot of involvement with the project, and this is an important milestone for them to see the Army is holding to their commitment of safe, environmentally sound and transparent destruction operations.

“The accomplishments by the BGCAPP workforce during these challenging times are most appreciated,” Williams said.

The Chemical Weapons Convention, or CWC, is a multilateral arms control treaty which prohibits the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons. As a state party to the convention, the U.S. must destroy all the chemical weapons it owns or possesses; destroy all chemical weapons it may have abandoned in another country; and destroy facilities it owns or possesses which were involved in the production of chemical weapons.

In 2012, the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Activity completed destruction of nearly 90% of the original U.S. chemical weapons stockpile stored at six U.S. Army installations across the U.S. and on Johnston Atoll in the Pacific.

PEO ACWA began agent destruction operations of the remaining 10% of the stockpile in Colorado in March 2015 and in Kentucky in June 2019. Destruction operations at both sites are scheduled to conclude by the CWC treaty commitment of Sept. 30, 2023, while U.S. Public Law mandates stockpile destruction by Dec. 31, 2023. Following the elimination of the U.S. stockpile, the facilities will be closed in accordance with applicable laws, regulations and mutual agreements between the Secretary of the Army and the governors of Colorado and Kentucky.