With little fanfare, the last of the chemical weapons stored in Anniston were destroyed at the Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal Facility Thursday as the last tray of 72 mustard agent-filled 105mm projectiles exited the Metal Parts Furnace.
On August 8, 2003 the Army began the job of destroying the 2,254 tons of nerve and mustard agent stored at the Anniston Army Depot. The weapons included rockets, motors, mines and artillery shells.
They finished the job several months ahead of the projected completion date.
Before the process could begin, officials had to win the battle of public opinion, as local and national groups opposed the incineration option. They threatened it would leak, dump toxins in the air and fail to completely destroy the deadly weapons that had been stored at the depot since the 1960’s. At one point, about seven percent of the U.S. chemical weapons arsenal was stored in Anniston.
“We made a commitment to the people of Alabama and to the citizens who live and work near or on Anniston Army Depot,” said Timothy K. Garrett, the facility’s government project manager. “And today we fulfilled that commitment,” of safely destroying all the stored weapons.
All told they destroyed 661,529 nerve agent and mustard agent munitions and 2,254 tons of chemical agent. They handled each chemical and weapons in groups.
Nerve Agent GB (August 9, 2003 ~ March 2, 2006):
Rockets – 42,762
8-inch Projectiles – 16,026
155mm Projectiles – 9,600
105mm Projectiles – 74,040
Nerve Agent VX (July 23, 2006 ~ December 24, 2008):
Rockets – 35,662
155mm Projectiles – 139,581
Land Mines – 44,131
Mustard Agent (July 2, 2009 ~ September 22, 2011):
4.2-inch Mortars – 258,912
Ton Containers – 108
155mm Projectiles – 17,643
105mm Projectiles – 23,064
Lt.Col. Willie J. Flucker, Anniston Chemical Activity commander says he was proud of the employees accomplishment. “These men and women continue to meet and exceed my every expectation.”
The Army’s Chemical Materials Agency also developed and operated independent mobile treatment systems in Anniston called the Non-Stockpile Chemical Materiel Project. It was used for on-site treatment of recovered chemical weapons. It was used at least four time while the incinerator was busy dealing with stored chemical weapons.
In fall 2002, the system was sent to a farmer’s pasture in Steele, Alabama. The land was formerly used at the World War II training ground called Camp Sibert. The team disposed of an armed and fuzed 4.2-inch mortar filled with phosgene gas.
In December 2003, at Fort McClellan, next to the Anniston Army Depot, they found an item identified as a chemical agent. It was destroyed.
In May 2009 they traveled to Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama to treat items discovered in overpack containers, known as “pigs.” There were 20 bottles in the contain but only one was to be viable as a threat.
In July 2010, the teams returned to Redstone Arsenal to destroy several munitions filled with FM and FS smoke. The munitions had been found on the arsenal.
Although the chemical weapons are gone at the Depot, the employees are not done. The next phase of the process will be to cleanup and close the facility. That could take 18-24 months.
They’ll test the storage igloos that housed the weapons since 1963 for any residual chemical agent. Once they are judged clean, they will be returned to the Depot for possible reuse.
Many of the incinerator facilities will be razed, while functional buildings never contaminated will be turned over to the Depot.
Before the process began, the Army agreed to destroy only the weapons stored at the Anniston Army Depot in the facility.
There were other chemical munitions stored in Indiana, Arkansas, Oregon, Utah, Maryland, Colorado, Kentucky, and the Johnston Island in the Pacific Ocean.
Workers in Tooele, Utah and Umatilla, Oregon are nearly finished destroying chemical weapons they have stored at those locations.
The Anniston munitions handling equipment will be cleaned and possibly transferred to the two chemical munitions storage sites in Colorado and Kentucky.