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
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
Who will destroy the weapons?
The destruction facility will be operated by the systems contractor, Bechtel
Parsons Blue Grass. The
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. The office is open weekdays from
8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Additional office hours are available upon request.