Bechtel announced today that the final munition in the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot stockpile of mustard agent-filled munitions has been safely destroyed. The team destroyed more than 780,000 projectiles and mortar rounds through three munitions destruction campaigns, made up of three different sizes of chemical weapons. The remainder of the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile is being destroyed at the Blue Grass Army Depot, Ky., by a Bechtel-led team and is expected to finish destruction operations soon.
“The Bechtel Pueblo Team is honored to be a partner with our community, state, Pueblo Chemical Depot, and Department of Defense to design, build, test, and safely operate the innovative Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (PCAPP) facility to accomplish this feat,” said Todd Ailes, project manager, Bechtel Pueblo Team. “I am extremely proud of the dedication of our workforce and teaming partners to ensure the U.S. commitment to the Chemical Weapons Convention was met in an environmentally safe and sound manner.”
Colorado Chemical Demilitarization Citizens’ Advisory Commission Chair Irene Kornelly, U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot Commander’s Representative Sheila Johnson, PCAPP Plant Manager Kim Jackson, PCAPP Site Project Manager Walton Levi, PuebloPlex CEO Russell DeSalvo and PCAPP Project Manager Todd Ailes celebrate the end of PCAPP operations today.
Destruction operations in Colorado first began in March 2015 with more than 2,613 U.S. tons of chemical agent that required safe destruction. With its successful completion, the milestone has been reported to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, an intergovernmental organization that implements the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty. The Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives is responsible for eliminating the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile by the treaty commitment date of Sept. 30, 2023.
“Bechtel is proud to have played a significant role in eliminating chemical weapons from the stockpile in Colorado. We understand the international implication and the U.S. commitment to the Chemical Weapons Convention,” said Michael Costas, general manager, Bechtel Defense & Space. “Not once did we waiver in our mission to build and operate a safe plant for the workforce, community, and environment.”
Now that the entire stockpile in Colorado has been destroyed, the PCAPP will enter the closure phase, which will continue for two to three years. This mission includes the disposal of all secondary wastes, decontamination and decommissioning of facilities and equipment, disposition of property, demolition of certain facilities, and closure of government contracts and environmental permits in accordance with laws and regulations.
Plant operators and staff pose with the final munition processed in the Main Plant at the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant in Pueblo, Colorado on June 16, 2023.
“Throughout the project, the mindset of our people has been to keep our team, the community, and the environment safe, and that will continue to be our mission in the closure phase,” said Ailes.
The Pueblo Chemical Depot originally stored three sizes of mustard agent-filled weapons: 155mm and 105mm projectiles and 4.2-inch mortar rounds. Neutralization and explosive destruction technologies were used to destroy the stockpile. The projectiles and a portion of the 4.2-inch mortar rounds were destroyed in the main plant under the supervision of trained operators using automated technology beginning in September 2016. The mustard agent was neutralized and the resulting product, known as hydrolysate, was broken down into salt, water and organics using living microbes in a biotreatment process.
Projectiles deemed unsuitable for automated processing and the remaining mortar rounds were destroyed by Static Detonation Chambers. Earlier, 951 problematic projectiles were destroyed using an Explosive Destruction System between 2015 and 2018.
“This is a remarkable program, and we are proud to achieve this accomplishment with our teaming partners, Amentum, Battelle, and GP Strategies, our subcontractors, the community, the state, the Pueblo Chemical Depot, and our customer, the Department of Defense,” said Ailes.