Thousands of mortar rounds at Pueblo Chemical Depot headed for destruction
The chemical agent pilot destruction plant has reached a new milestone at the Pueblo Chemical Depot having completed the unpacking and readying of thousands of battle-ready 4.2-inch mortar rounds that are scheduled for destruction later this year.
The plant is charged with destroying 2,600 tons of World War II era chemical weapons, which contain mustard agent, that have been stored on site.
“They have reconfigured the munitions which were ready to use on the battlefield - stored in boxes,” explained Katherine DeWeese, chief of public affairs for the Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternativees program. “The munitions handlers took thousands of the 4.2-inch rounds out of boxes so they are ready now to be destroyed.”
The rounds, which were set inside fiberboard tubes inside the boxes, had to be carefully unpacked to be readied for destruction. The energetic components were removed, along with a pressure plate and nut, cartridge container and rotating disc.
Rounds were then placed on pallets and covered.
“This milestone signifies we have prepared all the 4.2-inch mortars for destruction in our Static Detonation Chamber units starting later this year,” said Walton Levi, site project manager at the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant.
A total of three static detonation chamber units will be used for the destruction of the mortar rounds.
“We will be ready to start destroying the 4.2-inch rounds by the end of the year and their complete destruction will probably coinicide with our target date for final completion in April 2023,” said Sandy Romero, public affairs director for the Bechtel Pueblo Team.
Staff currently use the main plant, which has an automated process, to disassemble, drain and treat larger 155 mm projectiles which are slated to be completed in October, DeWeese said. Staff will then reconfigure some equipment in the main plant and then will advance to destroying the 105mm sized projectiles.
The depot staff have been able to keep busy during the coronavirus pandemic, DeWeese said.
“The Centers for Disease Control (and Prevention) has been very helpful,” in offering updated health guidelines to the plant to ensure the work could continue, DeWeese said.
“Fortunately, they (staff) took the CDC considerations very seriously and they have been helpful in ensuring the plant and destruction operations are still a go. The Pueblo plant is more than half way complete with its munitions and is really making progress,” DeWeese said.
Chieftain and Pueblo West View reporter Tracy Harmon can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at https://twitter.com/tracywumps. Help support local journalism by subscribing to the Chieftain at https://chieftain.com/subscribenow.