After having been closely monitored and protected around the clock for decades at the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot, mustard-filled munitions are coming to an end. The Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant Explosive Destruction System, known as the PCAPP EDS, is eliminating problematic munitions that cannot be easily processed by the main plant.
The PCAPP EDS is in the process of destroying 105mm projectiles, following the safe destruction of 10 Department of Transportation (DOT) bottles. The 105mm projectiles, which weigh approximately 32 pounds, are one of three types of chemical munitions in the Pueblo stockpile. Although the DOT bottles and 105mm projectiles are both filled with blister agent, the “one oh fives,” as they are called, also contain bursters and fuzes.
“I am thrilled that we have started up the EDS,” said Terry Hart, chair of the Pueblo Board of the County Commissioners and vice-chair of the Colorado Chemical Demilitarization Citizens’ Advisory Commission (CAC). “We worked on this project for a number of years, and I always felt that it was the best technology to resolve problem rounds.”
On April 8, crews successfully completed the destruction of three mustard-filled 105mm projectiles, marking the beginning of the end of Pueblo’s weaponized chemical munitions. During the first destruction campaign, the PCAPP EDS will destroy approximately 560 rounds, including 155mm projectiles and 4.2-inch mortars. The system will augment the PCAPP facility until the entire stockpile is eliminated.
The neutralization process and recovery of metal fragments, which involves adding chemicals, heating, cooling, turning the cylinder, opening the vessel and removing metal fragments, takes about six to eight hours. The word “explosive” in the name of the system is a bit of a misnomer, according to Laurence Gottschalk, director for the Recovered Chemical Materiel Directorate, Chemical Materials Activity.
On March 18, after months of planning, construction, testing, and approvals, agent operations were initiated when the first DOT bottle was destroyed. The build-up to that first “shot” was highly anticipated and began with the secure transfer of DOT bottles from a depot storage igloo to the PCAPP EDS site. Approved by the DOT for shipping small amounts of hazardous materials, the bottles contain mustard agent taken from various past sampling efforts to survey the condition of the stockpile.
Shortly before noon, one DOT bottle was loaded into the EDS, the door was sealed, and after numerous safety checks, the first detonation occurred. That afternoon, the agent was verified fully destroyed. “Wow, what a momentous day for Pueblo, the United States and the world,” said CAC chair Irene Kornelly later that day. “Congratulations to all who worked so hard to make this day happen.”