Three former project managers from chemical demilitarization sites in Alabama, Indiana and Oregon shared their start of operations experiences with the Colorado Chemical Demilitarization Citizens’ Advisory Commission at its Feb. 24 meeting in Pueblo, Colorado.
Deputy Program Executive Officer Don Barclay, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives, led the discussion entitled, Initiating Plant Operations, An Experienced Perspective. The panel offered firsthand insight into the challenges of plant start-up in anticipation of similar activities at the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (PCAPP) and Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (BGCAPP).
“Start-up is a hard process,” said Barclay who was the former site project manager (SPM) of Umatilla Chemical Agent Disposal Facility in eastern Oregon. “We are very fortunate to have experienced folks who led start-up at other facilities.”
Tim Garrett, the former SPM of the Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal Facility (ANCDF) described starting the plant there. He told how a hydraulic hose broke on the third day, halting operations. Garrett said ANCDF experienced “crawl—walk—run” and PCAPP and BGCAPP will experience the same.
“Things will break and need to be repaired,” Garrett said. “Concern should not be with numbers, but with the protection of the workforce, community and environment.”
BGCAPP’s SPM, Jeff Brubaker, who formerly managed the Newport Chemical Agent Disposal Facility, said the Indiana facility experienced its first significant setback on day 35 when reactor system injection and sampling valves failed. The rubber diaphragms, internal to the valves, showed severe deterioration and swelling.
A new valve reconfiguration was adopted and a synthetic resin, shown to be effective in Aberdeen, was installed. The lessons learned at Newport are benefiting the Blue Grass facility, said Brubaker, in that rubber was eliminated from BGCAPP’s reactor system.
“As we move into operations, we will watch our plant and people closely,” Barclay said. “Our commitment to the community and stakeholders is that we will operate the facilities safely.”