Monitoring Procedure Enhances Workforce Safety at Pueblo Plant



Fans circulate air within a previously decontaminated room closed to outside ventilation during an unventilated monitoring test at the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant in April and May. If chemical agent vapor is detected above levels defined in the plant’s air monitoring permit, the area will undergo further decontamination to protect workers who will perform closure activities in that area.



Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant workers performed a successful Unventilated Monitoring Test in Explosive Containment Room 1 in April. Pictured (left to right): Tony Villanueva, Stu Cook, Jonathan Mesa, Joshua Phillips, Rodney Chaney and Martin Vigil.

Technicians are conducting air monitoring testing at locations across the Pueblo plant in support of closure activities.

“These unventilated monitoring tests are conducted to ensure no chemical agent contamination remains that would expose an unprotected demolition worker to unsafe levels,” said Steven Maurer, chemist, Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant. “We are creating a worst-case scenario so that when a demolition crew is taking a building apart, no potential for exposure will exist.”

Maurer said to conduct this testing, after decontamination, a specified area is isolated from outside ventilation. The air inside the isolated area is mixed with fans and held at a temperature above 70°F to ensure vapor from any possible hidden chemical agent contamination is moved into the air to be detectable. Agent monitors sample the area for four hours. If agent vapor levels exceed a limit defined in the plant’s Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, or RCRA, permit, testing is halted, and the zone must undergo further decontamination before the test is repeated.

“Doing this ensures that demolition workers will remain safe as they will be working without agent-protective clothing or respirators during the demolition of the buildings,” Maurer said. “And we’re using the same detectors we used during agent destruction operations, so we know the results are credible.”

Seven of these tests will be conducted as part of plant closure activities in locations associated with agent processing and destruction: three in the Enhanced Reconfiguration Building and four more in the Agent Processing Building. Similar testing will be conducted in the future at the Static Detonation Chamber Complex.  

Preliminary results from recent tests in the ERB Explosive Containment have been successful with no readings exceeding the standard defined in the RCRA permit.

More information about air monitoring and other closure-related terms can be found here: Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives Closure Terminology

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