As of Aug. 30, operations at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant have resulted in the destruction of five tons, almost 1% of mustard agent munitions, according to the site’s manager, Candace Coyle.
“This is great progress for us,” she said at the regularly scheduled quarterly meeting of the Chemical Destruction Community Advisory Board.
Over 500 tons of munitions have been housed at the depot located in Madison County since the 1940s, and destruction began just months ago in June with a mandated completed destruction date of December 2023.
The Madison County chemical storage site is one of nine former locations across the nation, and is the last facility to begin destruction of their munitions.
Another plant in Pueblo, Colorado is also concurrently destroying its stockpile, with 948.5 tons of agent destroyed as of Aug. 30. That plant began operations in March of 2018.
Coyle gave updates regarding the static detonation chamber’s (SDC) operations, which is responsible for the destruction of the mustard agent through an explosive destruction technology.
She explained that in 2012, when x-rays were done of the igloos which store the munitions to determine their conditions, officials noticed a high solid content from some vintage munitions making these “atypical projectile rounds” impossible to drain.
Because of this, the explosive destruction technology was the only viable option to eradicate the agent.
“We made the right decision doing this,” she said. “We really did.”
While not all rounds are solidified, those that are require additional protective measures to stage the projectile for processing, as well as increased destruction time.
Coyle stated non-solidified rounds have an average destruction time of about 12 minutes, while “atypical” projectile rounds require a time span of about 54 minutes.
“(The atypical projectile rounds) are stored safely, but time has done its job,” Coyle said.
She stated that while there are increased destruction times for some munitions, all operations are on schedule to meet the federally mandated completion date of December 2023.
“We are on schedule and we are on track with what we need to be doing,” she said. “Safety is the first and absolute most important thing. While schedule is important and I have a federal mandate for December 2023, and we are marching towards that and finding ways to streamline that as the workforce gets more developed, safety is always going to be the first thing to me.”
One of the ways the plant intends to help streamline their process is by building a third facility for processing agents on the plant, to be called the SDC 2000.
The proposed SDC 2000 will process drained rocket warheads, as well as overpacked munitions which are in larger, sealed, steel containers to keep stored.
Coyle reported that the first steps had been taken toward making the changes to the main plant to include the additional, larger facility and that contracts had been awarded for equipment necessary for rocket processing changes.
For now, the next step to move forward with the SDC 2000 is submission of environmental permit modifications.
The next CDCAB meeting will be Dec. 11, 1:30 p.m., at the EKU Perkins Building in Richmond.
Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter at @TaylorSixRR.