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The Blue Grass Army Depot, located near Richmond, Ky., safeguards a ready supply of conventional munitions and provides chemical defense equipment and special operations support to the U.S. Department of Defense. The Blue Grass Chemical Activity, a tenant of the 15,000-acre depot, is responsible for the safekeeping of a portion of the nation's chemical weapons stockpile. Together the Army and the community surrounding the depot are working toward a committed partnership to support the safe destruction of the Blue Grass chemical weapons stockpile.

What are the chemical weapons?
The chemical weapons stockpile is comprised of 523 tons of blister agent in projectiles and nerve agent in projectiles and rockets. Contrary to popular belief, these chemicals are not gases. In their original form, they are actually liquids. When stored for a long period of time, they can become thick and sludge-like.

What is the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant?
The plant will be a state-of-the-art, full-scale pilot facility designed to safely and efficiently neutralize the Blue Grass chemical weapons stockpile. In June 2003, a systems contract was awarded to Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass to design, build, construct, test, operate and ultimately close this facility.

How will the weapons be destroyed?
After a comprehensive evaluation process, the Department of Defense selected neutralization followed by supercritical water oxidation, or SCWO, as the method of destruction on Feb. 3, 2003. During the neutralization process, munitions are disassembled using modified reverse assembly. After the agent and energetics are separated, they are chemically decomposed and neutralized by caustic or water hydrolysis. The resulting chemical compounds are known as "hydrolysates." The agent hydrolysate and the energetics hydrolysate are destroyed using SCWO units. The SCWO process subjects the hydrolysates to very high temperature and pressure, breaking them down into carbon dioxide, water, and salts. Metal parts are thermally decontaminated in a heated discharge conveyor. Dunnage, or materials such as the wooden pallets upon which the weapons are stored, are destroyed in the SCWO process. Solid effluents are recycled or tested prior to disposal in permitted landfills. Gas effluents are recycled or filtered and monitored before release to the atmosphere.

Who will destroy the weapons?
The destruction facility will be operated by the systems contractor, Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass.  The Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives program, known as ACWA and headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., has been charged with responsibility for safely disposing of the Blue Grass stockpile. Many other organizations are working in partnership with ACWA to complete this mission successfully. Among these organizations are the Blue Grass Army Depot, the Blue Grass Chemical Activity, the Chemical Materials Agency, the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection and the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management.

How will the environment be protected?
Protection of the unique environment surrounding the Blue Grass Army Depot is one of the Army's top considerations. Therefore, the permits for the facility will be based on special environmental studies conducted locally. Additionally, during disposal activities, the environment will be monitored continually to ensure that operations are protective of the area.

What will happen to the facility and the depot once the weapons are gone?
The areas of the facility that have come in contact with chemical agent will be decontaminated and the equipment dismantled. The disposition of the remainder of the facility has not yet been determined and will be negotiated among the Commonwealth of Kentucky, ACWA and Blue Grass Army Depot.

How can I learn more?
The Army opened the Blue Grass Chemical Stockpile Outreach Office in 1996 as a "one-stop" source of information about the chemical disposal program. The office staff works closely with the Army public affairs team, the state regulatory offices and local and state emergency preparedness offices to ensure a comprehensive public involvement and outreach program. The office also regularly schedules speaking presentations for community groups and serves as a resource for locating Army points of contact and subject matter experts. You can reach the outreach office staff at 859-626-8944 or via email at bgoutreach@iem.com. The office is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Additional office hours are available upon request.

Additional fact sheets, brochures, and other informational products are available online at the Program Executive Office for Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives website.