Destroyed munitions are visibly documented on the last day of destruction using the EDS.

Army Completes Explosive Destruction System Ops at Pueblo Chemical Depot

Army Completes Explosive Destruction System Ops at Pueblo Chemical Depot

By Shawn Nesaw

Experts from U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) Chemical Biological Center recently completed the destruction of 391 chemical munitions that were recovered at the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot (PCD) or were unfit for processing in the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (PCAPP).

The operation, completed by the Center’s Chemical Biological Application and Risk Reduction (CBARR) business unit, was executed in partnership with the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Activity and the Program Executive Office, Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (PEO ACWA).

This completion marks the end of the second destruction campaign using the Explosive Destruction System (EDS), a technology that uses cutting charges to explosively access chemical munitions, eliminating their explosive capacity before neutralizing the chemical agent. The first campaign ended in 2016 and successfully eliminated 560 items that were deemed unfit for processing at PCAPP.

This campaign was unique in that the team destroyed chemical munitions from the stockpile that could not be processed through the main plant as well as munitions recovered at PCD by the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Munitions destroyed in the campaign included M70 bombs, 105mm and 155mm projections, and 4.2-inch mortars containing mustard agent.

The team completed destruction of the first munition June 26; and destruction of the last munition occurred Dec. 5. Once destruction operations were complete, the team conducted site closure activities that lasted through January.

Site Closure

The on-site team received authorization to start packing the EDS site shortly after completion of the last operation in December. In addition to packing supplies and equipment for shipment to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, the team also conducted environmental monitoring of the site and equipment to ensure there was no chemical agent contamination. This process was conducted in compliance with state safety and environmental regulatory standards. Ultimately, the team received concurrence from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to close the site. This notification allowed Center personnel to remove the EDS unit from the site.

“There was a flurry of activity right after the holidays to make sure everything was accounted for and that we were leaving the site in good order, adhering to state and local guidelines throughout the closure,” explained Laura Graham, CBARR’s project manager at PCD.

The EDS, along with a lot of the technology needed to operate it, was sent back to the CCDC Chemical Biological Center in Edgewood, MD where it will undergo depot-level maintenance such as vessel change out, deep cleaning, and examination of all systems to ensure it’s ready to deploy again.

Continuing Support to Eliminate the Nation’s Stockpile

While the Center has completed destruction operations at PCD using the EDS, CBARR continues to support PEO-ACWA’s elimination mission at PCD as well as at Blue Grass Chemical Depot in Kentucky.

The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Defense Programs, and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Threat Reduction and Arms Control have identified the United States chemical munition destruction mission as a strategic priority. The CCDC Chemical Biological Center plays a vital role in keeping the destruction mission on schedule by handling munitions that would otherwise halt standard operations at the pilot plants and cause operational delays.

“The continued destruction of the nation’s chemical weapons stockpiles is critical to treaty compliance,” said Tim Blades, CBARR’s operations director. “It also provides an opportunity to maintain the Army’s readiness in chemical weapons destruction.”

In addition to the destruction operations using the EDS, the team recently deployed to Blue Grass Chemical Depot in Kentucky where it conducted an operation to obtain munitions-grade agent for use in systemizing the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant. CBARR’s subject matter experts and air monitoring technicians also lead waste management operations to ensure the safe transport and final destruction of secondary waste produced at PCAPP.

Destroyed munitions are visibly documented on the last day of destruction using the EDS.