Residents of communities surrounding the Blue Grass Army Depot learned Wednesday that the proposed disposal of more than 15,000 chemical weapons stored at the facility won’t begin for at least another year.
At a quarterly meeting of officials held at Eastern Kentucky University, Jeff Brubaker, project manager for the plant that will ultimately destroy the weapons, said that an environmental assessment of the proposal to explode the shells in steel containers must be done beforehand under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The assessment, which will take about a year to complete, will be performed by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and will look at the possible impact the process would have to human health and the environment.
The concerns with the 155mm mustard gas shells stored at the depot and at similar installations in other states is “heel,” or solidified mustard agent, inside the shells.
A sampling of shells at BGAD last year showed that 85 percent of those sampled had at least 30 percent “heel,” Brubaker said. The presence of “heel” in shells has caused delays in destruction at other facilities in the U.S. because the solid material is harder to remove than the liquid agent.