The engineering, construction, and project management firm Bechtel has initiated an effort to address chemical weapons destruction to reach the goal of eradicating the national stockpile by 2023.
“As a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty, the U.S. is committed to destroying the remaining stockpile,” Barbara Rusinko, president of Bechtel’s Nuclear, Security & Environmental global business unit, said. “Our team is equally committed to completing the mission and doing it safely.”
The Colorado-based plant uses a two-stage process to destroy the toxins – chemical neutralization followed by biotreatment using living microbes. The remnants are salts, water, and organics.
Project Manager Ken Harrawood said the first campaign was completed safely and without a lost-time accident or incident.
“The plant has been retrofitted to handle smaller projectiles, we’re trained, and we’re ready to safely restart,” he said.
Authorities indicated 780,000 chemical munitions had been stored at the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot. The destruction began in 2015 with an inventory of 155mm artillery projectiles. The campaign was completed in September of this year.
The Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant was built and operated under contract with the Department of Defense’s Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives.
The destruction of the stockpiles underway in Colorado and Kentucky, along with previous projects in Alabama and Maryland, means Bechtel will have safely eliminated nearly 5,000 tons of chemical weapons in rockets, artillery rounds, mortar shells, and storage canisters at four of the nine original U.S. storage depots.