International inspectors observe Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (PCAPP) operations to confirm the presence and destruction of mustard agent.
“The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) inspection team is here to observe and confirm we are performing chemical weapons destruction in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention,” said Marty Vigil, treaty compliance representative, PCAPP.
Sampling analysis and verification activities are required in three main areas: agent sampling to confirm the projectiles contain mustard agent as declared, Depot Area Air Monitoring System (DAAMS) samples to confirm the safety of the OPCW work area and hydrolysate samples to confirm the destruction of agent, Vigil said.
In mid-October, a tagged munition, taken from a storage igloo at the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot, was delivered to PCAPP where operators sampled its contents to confirm it contained mustard agent. Some munitions were tagged by OPCW ambassadors as far back as 1996 for tracking purposes, said Brian Ramdwar, operations branch manager, PCAPP.
Munitions that were not previously tagged by the international team are also sampled.
“The total number of samples we take is related to the number of munitions we process,” said Vigil. “Roughly, we will sample one munition for every 5,000 processed.”
In September, laboratory monitoring and operations branch personnel retrieved the first sample from a DAAMS tube located in the Treaty Office Facility (TOF). A Gas Chromatograph confirmed no agent present, Ramdwar said.
“We sample TOF work space in 12 hour increments to ensure personal safety is not comprised. The inspectors observe this activity once a month, but have the option of observing sampling every time, if they choose,” Ramdwar said.
Hydrolysate, the product of the chemical neutralization process, is also sampled and analyzed to confirm the destruction of mustard agent, Ramdwar said.
The treaty verification process will extend to the Biotreatment Area once that area of the plant is operational. Sampling will continue at least monthly until the last munition is destroyed, said Ramdwar.