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Nerve agent destruction begins at Blue Grass Army Depot

U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville
Published March 6, 2020
Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant workers place the first 8-inch projectile containing GB nerve agent in a tray to begin the destruction process in the Munitions Demilitarization Building in Richmond, Kentucky, Jan. 16, 2020.

Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant workers place the first 8-inch projectile containing GB nerve agent in a tray to begin the destruction process in the Munitions Demilitarization Building in Richmond, Kentucky, Jan. 16, 2020.

Full-scale chemical agent destruction operations at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant at the Blue Grass Army Depot began Jan. 17 with the destruction of the first 8-inch projectile containing GB nerve agent in the main plant.

Destroying 8-inch projectiles filled with GB marks the first nerve agent destruction in the U.S. in more than a decade, as the last VX landmine was destroyed at the Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal Facility in Anniston, Alabama, Dec. 24, 2009.

Construction of the Blue Grass plant began in 2006. The plant uses a supercritical water oxidation process to destroy nerve agents supplemented by a static detonation chamber used to destroy 15,000 mustard gas 155 mm projectiles.

As the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ agent for facility design and construction of all chemical demilitarization facilities, Huntsville Center has a long history building the facilities used to destroy chemical weapons.

The stockpile sites in Colorado and Kentucky account for the last 10 percent of what was originally a national stockpile of more than 30,000 tons of chemical weapons. The U.S. Army Chemical Materials Activity destroyed the initial 90%, which was stored at seven other sites across the U.S. and on Johnston Atoll in the Pacific. Chemical weapons destruction in Colorado began in 2015. Both sites will complete destruction of chemical weapons by Dec. 31, 2023.

In 1981, the U.S. Army Toxic and Hazardous Material Agency requested the support of the then Huntsville Division to assist with construction of the plants, starting with a project at Johnston Atoll. 

Through three decades Huntsville Center assisted with designing and constructing chemical weapons destruction facilities in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Maryland, Oregon and Utah.

Boyce Ross, who served as the director of engineering at the Center during the facility’s design and construction, saw the chemical demilitarization program become one of the largest and longest-running programs supported by the Huntsville Center.

“Huntsville Center employees had a major role in the destruction of these weapons of mass destruction determined too inhumane to use in war, and too dangerous to store,” he said.

Although most Huntsville Center employees recognized their role in the chemical disposal program substantially ended in 2014, the Center formally ended its chemical demilitarization construction mission with completion of the Blue Grass facility in 2015.

“Thousands of people spent hundreds of thousands of man-hours developing large-scale engineering and construction projects that fulfilled international obligations and made the world a better, safer place. We should all be extremely proud of the work we accomplished.”

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Information from the Blue Grass Chemical Stockpile Outreach Office was used in this story. Learn more: www.peoacwa.army.mil/2020/01/24/nerve-agent-destruction-begins-at-blue-grass-army-depot-bgcapp-news/

William S. Farrow, a public affairs specialist with the Huntsville Center Public Affairs Office, contributed to this story.