Major milestone: 25% of chemical agent destroyed at Depot

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An operator uses a forklift to move 155mm projectiles containing VX nerve agent to begin the destruction process at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant April 7. As of April 25, 25% of the original 523 tons of chemical agent stored at the Blue Grass Army Depot has been destroyed. (A portion of this photograph has been blurred in accordance with Department of Defense guidelines.)

On April 25, the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant team reached a significant milestone in the destruction of 25% of the original 523 U.S. tons of chemical agent stored at the Blue Grass Army Depot.

More than 130 tons of chemical agent have been destroyed after destruction operations began in June of 2019. Once the VX projectile campaign is complete, the plant will undergo a changeover process to begin destroying VX M55 rockets. The final campaign will then be the destruction of GB M55 rockets.

All chemical weapons are to be destroyed by the end of 2023, under a congressionally mandated deadline.

“It’s been a busy and exciting time for us, as we are currently involved with two of the plant’s five destruction campaigns, as well as systemization of the new rocket-processing line and construction of the Static Detonation Chamber 2000,” said Dr. Candace Coyle, BGCAPP site project manager. “I would like to recognize and applaud the Blue Grass team for safely reaching this milestone, especially during a pandemic situation.”

The current destruction campaigns, mustard-agent 155mm projectiles in the Explosive Destruction Technology facility and VX 155mm projectiles in the main plant, and the previous completion of the GB 8-inch projectiles in the main plant, all contributed to the destruction milestone, Coyle said. The workers have been following firm COVID-19 protocols since March of 2020.

“I am very proud of how our team handled themselves through not only the destruction of 25% of the chemical weapons in a safe and effective manner, but also in remaining safe during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ron Hink, Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass project manager. “Our focus has always been the safety of the workers first, and with that in mind, everyone buckled down and did what needed to be done to protect themselves and those around them.”

BGCAPP partners with BGAD and the Blue Grass Chemical Activity (BGCA) to accomplish the chemical weapons destruction mission.

“For decades now, BGCA has stored chemical weapons safely, securely and compliantly,” said Lt. Col. Ed Williams, BGCA commander. “The Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant’s destruction of 25% of BGCA’s original stockpile is not only encouraging, but it also fulfills our promise to our community. I am both humbled and proud of our toxic material handlers, inventory specialists, quality assurance specialists, monitoring personnel and other support elements whose commitment and contributions have been invaluable to this great milestone.”

“Congratulations are in order to BGCAPP and BGCA for achieving an important milestone in the chemical weapons demilitarization campaign,” said Col. Steve Dorris, BGAD commander. “Safely completing the destruction of 25% of all on-hand stocks must be a comforting thought to our local citizens in knowing, that after some 60 years, the chemical weapons stored in their local community will soon be gone.”