By Patrick O’Dowd
Earlier this week, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported on another meeting revolving around the Blue Grass Army Depot’s disposal of over 15,000 chemical weapons stored at the central Kentucky site. The primary news coming out of the gathering was that the destruction of the weapons will be delayed by yet another year due to an environmental assessment required by a law dating back 42 years. The public meeting at Richmond’s Eastern Kentucky University also gathered together the Kentucky Chemical Demilitarization Citizens’ Advisory Commission and the Chemical Destruction Community Advisory Board as part of the discussions.
Jeff Brubaker, the manager of the plant eventually responsible for the destruction of the chemical weapons, is quoted as saying the study would have to be conducted at Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory which has carried out similar assessments for other weapons depots like the one in Richmond.
While the technology has been used once before domestically to dispose of chemical weapons, the assessment is required at each site. The purpose of which is to examine the environmental fallout of the process and whether or not any more preferable alternative methods exist. There will also be a period to incorporate public comment as a result of the study.
This latest delay is nothing new to those who have followed the over 20 year long winding procession toward the planned destruction of the mustard gas munitions stored at Richmond’s Blue Grass Army Depot. The depot, a chemical weapon storage site since the 1940s, houses roughly two percent of the U.S. Army’s chemical weapons stockpile.
During the early ’90s, the plan had been to use incinerators to destroy the weapons stockpile but serious questions and concerns were raised about the safety and viability of such methods causing those efforts to lose steam. Eventually in 2002, the Department of Defense settled on a neutralization process combined with supercritical water oxidation and ground was broken on the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant in 2003.
That was ten years ago and on Wednesday, central Kentucky learned that another year long delay is in the works—moving the finish line just that much farther down the road.
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