Speeches, music and flags mark the beginning of the end of chemical weapons at Blue Grass Army Depot

RICHMOND, KY (May 29, 2019) – A military band, ribbon cutting and speech making by Senator Mitch McConnell,  Governor Matt Bevin, and others marked the beginning of the end at the Blue Grass Army Depot (BGAD) – a massive chemical weapons stockpile located there since the 1940s.

Beginning early in June, the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (BGCAPP) will use Explosive Destruction Technology (EDT) – a detonation chamber – to destroy about 15,000 mustard munitions. Destruction of the nerve agent, using neutralization and a supercritical water oxidation process, is expected later this year. The process will take approximately four years.

In his keynote address, Senator McConnell complimented the Richmond area community, military officials, BGAD personnel, and area resident Craig Williams, who helped found the Kentucky Environmental Foundation and the Chemical Weapons Working Group (CWWG).

“Together we made our voices heard, built this state-of-the-art facility, and protected the families of this wonderful community. Our system is at its best when citizens and entire communities lead,” McConnell said. “By working together we can make Kentucky a safer place for countless generations to follow.”

Gov. Bevin, who was joined by Kentucky Energy & Environment Cabinet Secretary Charles Snavely, among others, in the ribbon-cutting ceremony, called the day a milestone for not only Kentucky but the rest of the country. “I appreciate our local, state and federal partners for working together to ensure that the plant operates safely and efficiently, as it carries out this important work,” Gov. Bevin said.

Blue Grass Chemical Activity (BGCA) is one of only two remaining storage sites for the nation’s chemical weapons stockpile of mustard gas and the nerve agent sarin and VX. Under an international treaty, the Army is committed to safely destroy these weapons, 523 tons in all, by the end of 2023.

The Cabinet’s Division of Waste Management (DWM) established the Bluegrass Army Depot Section in 2009 and has been entrusted to ensure compliance with all hazardous waste regulations through review and approval of permit applications; communication with stakeholders and the community; and oversight of the operation of the BGCAPP and EDT facilities.

During the past several years, DWM staff has participated in training that included inspections and plant tours, including visits to the EDT facilities in Pueblo, Colorado and Anniston, Alabama. Most recently, the staff has been meeting weekly with Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass, the contractor at the facility, in preparation for phase I of the destruction process.

DWM also maintains a Richmond satellite office of six inspectors, who will have staff available around the clock to respond to any hazardous waste issues that may arise at the facility. Division inspectors will attend plant shift changeover meetings, stay familiar with the previous shift’s activities and in the next shift planning.

Staff will have onsite access and review of closed-circuit television and daily operating records and will perform hazardous waste inspections at areas storing or accumulating hazardous waste as part of demilitarization facility processes.

“I want to thank all the Cabinet employees, especially in the Division of Waste Management, who through their years of careful oversight, have brought us to this point today,” Secretary Snavely said. “We all have one goal – the safe and environmentally sound destruction of the chemical weapons stockpile at the depot.”