Technicians started preparing to support Explosive Destruction Technology (EDT) operations by training with specialized protective suits and gear Sept. 12 at the off-site training center’s simulated toxic area.
“Our people must be trained in the use of this gear before we can start agent operations,” said Doug Plummer, training manager, Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass. “As we are getting the equipment ready to process the mustard munitions, we are also getting our people ready. Our highest priority is the safety of our workforce, the community and the environment.”
Personnel will train on two encapsulated suits, both designated as Level A, said Plummer. The white Demilitarization Protective Ensemble (DPE) will be used for standard entries into secure areas where chemical agent vapor or liquid may be present. This suit requires external supplied air to provide a positive-pressure system within the suit. The other suit (blue for training and orange for actual use) is designed for emergency use and does not require externally supplied air. Personnel wear a self-contained breathing apparatus inside both suits.
“One of the great things about being one of the last two chemical munitions destruction sites is that we benefit from those who have gone before,” said Sharon Valle, government property administrator, Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant. “We have received about 2,000 unused DPE suits from some of the other sites, which saved the Blue Grass project a lot of money. We try to find efficiencies anywhere we can.”
Since the EDT project is slated to begin operations in 2017, the Training Department plans to complete this training by the end of 2016, said Plummer. The technicians will receive on-the-job training involving additional practice in using the Level A suits prior to agent operations. The Training Department will then shift to training main plant personnel on their protective gear.
Both the EDT and main-plant systems are heavily automated and personnel will not interact with the munitions after processing begins. Maintenance work and other support functions in the processing areas are still necessary and trained personnel will perform those functions as required.