In 2019, workers at the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant made significant progress in the destruction of mustard agent-filled munitions, eliminating hundreds of tons of chemical agent.
“We finished pilot testing in the spring, started Static Detonation Chamber (assembly) in the summer, and we’re on pace to finish the year with approximately 200,000 munitions destroyed,” said Ken Harrawood, project manager, Bechtel Pueblo Team.
The PCAPP facility uses a two-step destruction process, neutralization followed by biotreatment, as the primary technology to destroy the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile in Colorado. Since agent destruction operations began in 2015, the Pueblo team has safely destroyed more than 1,000 U.S. tons of chemical agent. In April, it was announced that 25% of the agent in the stockpile had been eliminated; in the first quarter of 2020, more than half of the agent should be destroyed.
In July, a milestone was reached when the team successfully destroyed more than half of the 155mm projectiles in the depot stockpile, the first munitions destruction campaign underway. The stockpile in Pueblo consists of 155 and 105mm projectiles, as well as 4.2-inch mortar rounds.
Workers performed Integrated Facility Demonstrations to validate the plant operates as designed. In early May, the third and final background sampling of pilot testing was successfully completed. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is reviewing the data from pilot testing. After this review is complete, a determination will come on issuing the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, known as RCRA, Part B permit, allowing the plant to officially begin full operations while continuing to properly manage wastes.
To help accelerate the destruction timeline and meet the Congressional destruction deadline of Dec. 31, 2023, three SDCs were ordered to augment the main plant. The SDC is a safe and proven technology that will use thermal heat to detonate or deflagrate chemical weapons.
In the spring, work began on site preparation. The arrival of the first SDC components occurred in the summer. The SDCs are scheduled to start operating in late 2020.
Meanwhile, ordnance technicians at the main plant continued baseline reconfiguration of the 4.2-inch mortar rounds, the process of removing projectiles from wooden boxes and fiberboard tubes and readying them for future processing by the SDCs.