By Mr. Michael Abrams (AMC)March 26, 2010
ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. (March 25, 2010) - A new operation here is expected to have a big impact on future chemical munition disposal operations in Pueblo, Colo. Monday, Anniston Chemical Activity (ANCA) employees started delivering mustard-filled 4.2-inch mortars to a building on Anniston Army Depot laid out to resemble an area of the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (PCAPP) under construction at Pueblo Chemical Depot, Pueblo, Colo. At the Anniston building, a team of specially trained Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal Facility (ANCDF) employees started using the Linear Projectile Mortar Disassembly (LPMD) machine Tuesday (March 23) to remove explosives (fuzes and bursters) from the munitions ANCA is delivering to them. The Anniston-based employees will collect LPMD reliability and maintenance data associated with the removal of the explosives over the course of several months. The data collected in Anniston will be analyzed and used by Pueblo-based counterparts to safely demilitarize the chemical munition stockpile in Colorado. "We can do this important job to help our sister site in Colorado while also conducting safe operations at the ANCDF. But it is also important to know the LPMD project does not involve the transportation of any mustard-filled munitions to or from either the Alabama site or the Colorado site," said Timothy K. Garrett, ANCDF government site project manager. He also said, "Since the Anniston mustard-filled munitions are similar to the Pueblo stockpile, the lessons learned here will be instrumental in helping the Colorado team prepare for future safe disposal operations at Pueblo Chemical Depot." ANCA employees are now moving mustard-filled munitions from storage igloos to the ANCDF and to the LPMD building in support of operations at both facilities. They use large, vault-like containers to safely and securely move the munitions. To date, ANCA's Army civilian employees have made more than 8,500 safe deliveries using the containers since the first trip to the ANCDF in August 2003. Lt.Col. Andrew M. Herbst, ANCA commander, said, "I'm excited to see the LPMD project under way. ANCA employees are eager to approach this project as an opportunity to assist our sister site, Pueblo Chemical Depot, in preparing for the start of their own munition disposal campaign." While ANCA employees are responsible for storing and moving chemical munitions at Anniston Army Depot, Westinghouse Anniston contractor employees are operating the ANCDF and the new LPMD. Steve Bragg is the LPMD Project Manager. He said, "A large number of people have worked very hard to begin operations at the LPMD and I am very thankful for their efforts. We have worked as a team to begin safe, compliant operations." A key component of the LPMD is a yellow, six-axis robot that is remotely operated by Bragg's team from a nearby control room. After other employees carefully place mustard munitions on a conveyor system, the robotic machine picks up the munitions one at a time and places them at munition handling stations like those used in the older PMDs. The use of the robotic LPMD, rather than older, flat, rotary tables, is expected to improve PCAPP operations. Locally, the explosives removed by the Alabama crew will be destroyed on Anniston Army Depot at a later date. The munitions, on the other hand, will be repackaged and returned to safe ANCA storage igloos for future disposal at the ANCDF. Anniston LPMD operations are expected to remove the munition's energetic components, including the fuze and burster, from thousands of 4.2-inch mortars and 105mm and 155mm artillery shells during the next several months. The project does not involve the draining of any mustard agent. This week, only a relatively few mortars have been processed as local managers have scheduled a slow and deliberate ramp up of operations to ensure safe operations. Since disposal operations began at the ANCDF in August 2003, more than 467,700 nerve agent and mustard-filled munitions (70.6 percent) have been safely demilitarized. More than 346,000 gallons (68.7 percent) of liquid nerve and mustard agents have also been processed during operations at the ANCDF.