Work to begin today on eradication at APG

Mustard agent destruction was accelerated after 9/11

April 23, 2003|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

Destruction of the bulk mustard agent stockpile at Aberdeen Proving Ground will start today under an accelerated program begun by the Army after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It will take about six months of around-the-clock work to complete the process.

Destruction had been scheduled for completion by 2006, but security concerns after the terrorist attacks led to "Speedy Neut," a project that speeded the original neutralization process.

The Aberdeen Chemical Agent Disposal Facility will destroy the mustard agent first. Later, after all of the agent has been removed, the empty steel containers will be decontaminated and cut in two for recycling off-site.

"Given the terrorists threat facing our nation, these toxins must be destroyed as soon as possible," U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a Democrat, said in a statement released yesterday.

Mustard agent, a syrupy blister compound with the consistency of molasses, has been stored and monitored for more than 60 years at the Chemical Agent Storage Yard in the Edgewood Area of APG.

Bechtel Aberdeen, the contractor responsible for the project, heads a team of more than 400 people to destroy the aging mustard stockpile. Members of the Army Technical Escort Unit, an organization with 60 years' experience in the movement of hazardous chemicals, will move the large steel containers of mustard agent to the neutralization facility.

The Army worked with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Maryland Department of the Environment, which approved the plans for the neutralization facility. After a gradual start of the process, the facility is expected to drain and neutralize an average of 12 containers a day.

Lee Smith, Bechtel Aberdeen project manager, said the plant has been operating on a 24- hour-a-day training schedule since early December.

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