U.S. to Prepare Chemical Weapons Waste Treatment Plan

The U.S. Defense Department is scheduled next week to begin developing a plan for treating waste produced by neutralizing chemical warfare materials at two sites, the Richmond, Ky., Register reported (see GSN, Dec. 10).

Congress in January would receive the proposal formulated by Pentagon staffers and Kevin Flamm, head of the Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives program.

Flamm's agency is preparing for disposal of chemical weapons stored at the Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky and the Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado. Both sites -- using facilities that have yet to be built -- would use chemical neutralization to treat the weapons agents. However, that produces a liquid known as hydrolysate which itself must undergo another treatment, supercritical water oxidation.

The question is whether to build the secondary treatment plants at the storage depots or to ship the wastewater to an existing off-site facility.

Transporting the hydrolysate to another site could save between $120 million and $180 million at Blue Grass and would make construction and eventual remediation at the site easier, Flamm said. It could, though, face strong opposition from a number of sources, including residents of the recipient communities.

A House bill submitted by Representative Mark Udall (D-Colo.) would prohibit the Pentagon from relocating chemical weapons neutralization waste.

State officials in Kentucky approved a permit for the Blue Grass disposal plant in the belief that the site would house the oxidation facility as well, said Doug Hindman, co-chairman of the Chemical Destruction Community Advisory Board. They could rethink their decision of that does not occur, he and others said during a meeting Tuesday.

Flamm said that safety would be a priority in whatever decision is made. "This is a question of risk management," he said (Bill Robinson, Richmond Register, Dec. 10).

December 11, 2008
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The U.S. Defense Department is scheduled next week to begin developing a plan for treating waste produced by neutralizing chemical warfare materials at two sites, the Richmond, Ky., Register reported (see GSN, Dec. 10).