Destruction Begins on Last Chemical Weapons Stockpile in Kentucky

In this photo provided by the U.S. Army, workers at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent Destruction Pilot Plant in Richmond, Ky., begin the destruction of the first rocket from a stockpile of M55 rockets with GB nerve agent on Wednesday, July 6, 2022. The plant began destroying more than 520 tons of deadly and aging chemical weapons in 2019. (U.S. Army via AP)

BLUE GRASS ARMY DEPOT, Ky. – The first M55 rocket containing GB nerve agent was destroyed at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (BGCAPP) July 6.

“The GB rockets are the last type of chemical weapons to be destroyed at the Blue Grass Army Depot,” said Dr. Candace Coyle, BGCAPP site project manager. “We are committed to safely eliminating the remaining U.S. chemical weapons stockpile by 2023 and then safely closing the plant.”

The M55 rockets containing GB nerve agent represent more than 50% of the original chemical weapons stockpile safely stored at the Blue Grass Army Depot (BGAD). Initially, five different kinds of chemical agent-filled weapons were stored at BGAD: 155mm projectiles containing mustard agent, 155mm projectiles containing VX nerve agent, 8-inch projectiles containing GB nerve agent, M55 rockets containing VX nerve agent and M55 rockets containing GB nerve agent.

Chemical weapons destruction operations began at BGCAPP on June 7, 2019. Trained operators have overseen the safe destruction of 246.7 U.S. tons of chemical agent. A total of 276.6 U.S. tons of chemical agent remains to be destroyed in Kentucky.

“Our constant theme throughout every campaign has been ‘safety’ and it will remain our theme as we destroy rockets containing GB nerve agent,” said Ron Hink, Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass (BPBG) project manager. “Our Blue Grass team is ready to finish our mission of destroying every chemical weapon stored in Kentucky.”

“I’m proud of the chemical demilitarization work completed by the BGCAPP team, which operates hand-in-hand with the depot’s supporting structure and environmental compliance offices,” said Col. Stephen Dorris, BGAD commander. “The safe completion of four of the five chemical surety material campaigns in just three years is truly noteworthy. It’s amazing to think that the GB rocket campaign is all that’s left to safely neutralize after so many years of hard work safely storing and securing the various GB, VX, and mustard agent material. These next several months will undoubtedly be filled with challenges, but I’m confident in the ability of the dedicated professionals Team BGAD has working to complete this very important mission. Following the completion of this important chemical surety mission, the depot remains postured to continue its daily lethal and non-lethal, material support mission to the Joint Warfighter. The depot was here long before chemical surety material was ever moved here, and we plan to continue the receipt, storage, maintenance, shipment and demilitarization of conventional munitions and material for many years into the future.”

“Blue Grass Chemical Activity is proud to support BGCAPP in the destruction of the GB rocket stockpile, the final chemical weapons campaign,” said Lt. Col. Tyler McKee, Blue Grass Chemical Activity commander. “The entire Blue Grass Chemical Activity workforce is prepared to enthusiastically and safely support this historic effort.”

“They really are starting on destroying the last chemical weapons in the U.S. stockpile,” said Dr. Doug Hindman, Kentucky Chemical Demilitarization Citizens’ Advisory Commission chair. “That’s an achievement we’ve all worked toward for years. Once they finish, safely, America will be totally free of stored chemical weapons.”

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