Protection program removes towers, marking mission completion milestone

By Karen NikolFebruary 21, 2024

Tower 1 Crane
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The top section of weather tower 1 is removed, marking the end of decades the tower provided data to help protect the Pueblo Chemical Depot workforce and surrounding communities. (Photo Credit: Karen Nikol) VIEW ORIGINAL
Tower 4 Base Loaded
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The final weather tower base is loaded onto a trailer, one of the last steps in the project to remove the weather towers that helped protect Pueblo Chemical Depot for decades. (Photo Credit: Karen Nikol) VIEW ORIGINAL

PUEBLO CHEMICAL DEPOT, Colorado -- The removal of five weather towers from Pueblo Chemical Depot (PCD) in January culminated decades of diligent monitoring and environmental stewardship to protect the Pueblo community and marks another significant stride toward completing the depot’s mission.

The towers served multiple purposes, supporting disposal permits for chemical stockpile destruction and movement, providing meteorological data for PCD’s hazard prediction, tracking and modeling, and supporting public alert and notification if needed through the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program. CSEPP ends in Colorado on Feb. 13, following successful completion of chemical stockpile destruction last year. Removal of the weather towers is a landmark event for CSEPP, a partnership between the Army and Federal Emergency Management Agency, working collaboratively with the state and local communities to enhance emergency response capabilities and ensure public readiness in the event of a chemical stockpile incident.

“PCD has put safety at the forefront of every operation, and CSEPP supported that commitment to safety with these towers,” said PCD Commander Col. Rodney McCutcheon. “For example, the towers enabled us to consider wind speed and direction before we moved chemical munitions, which reduced risk to the public had there been an accident. Removing the towers at the end of this mission underscores our commitment to environmental restoration, as we facilitate a coordinated transition toward depot closure.”

Mr. Gabriel Rothman, CSEPP Meteorologist at the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Activity (CMA), echoed the commander’s statement regarding safety.

“The towers collected observational weather conditions, which were transmitted into our hazard prediction system, called WebPuff, on a real-time basis,” Rothman said. “That is extremely important, because it provided rapid capability to alert the community and workers.”

The depot falls under CMA, a separate reporting activity of the U.S. Army Materiel Command; the U.S. Army Joint Munitions Command has Tactical Control authority.

The towers were installed during the late 1980s and upgraded in 1997 with enhanced capabilities. Managed initially by the Bureau of Land Management, the network expanded to include four additional towers in Pueblo County by 2001, signifying a robust infrastructure for monitoring and safeguarding against chemical risks, according to Ms. Carmen Kifer, chief of CSEPP at CMA.

“CSEPP’s overarching mission is to support and partner with communities in their readiness to respond to a chemical stockpile incident or mishap by enhancing their emergency response capabilities, facilities, equipment and systems,” Kifer said. “This includes informing and preparing the public through integrated response plans, public education, emergency information programs and integrated chemical agent casualty medical responses. While we never needed the towers in response to a chemical stockpile emergency, we were confident that we possessed the tools to protect the public had an issue occurred.”

The decision to remove these towers, which have been inspected and maintained for CSEPP by Argonne National Laboratory since 1997, stemmed from the goal of returning the land to its original condition post-stockpile destruction, achieved within the 180-day legislative window.

As the towers fade from the rustic landscape, their removal underscores PCD’s commitment to due diligence in the closure process, by instilling confidence in stakeholders and external partners regarding the responsible handling of environmental, contractual, personnel, land, and facility-related aspects of divestiture.