Above: POD Storage Igloo Storage Unit for chemical weapons.  Pueblo Chemical Depot (PCD) currently stores a stockpile of munitions consisting of mustard agent (types HD and HT) contained in 155mm and 105mm artillery projectiles and 4.2 inch mortar rounds. PCD currently stores 2,611 tons of chemical agents in igloos that are monitored through an ongoing inspection program.  It houses over 2,000 tons of mustard agents in approximately 780,000 munitions. This is actually equivalent to 7% of the total chemical material stockpile of United States.

Where is Pueblo Chemical Depot located? Map of Pueblo Chemical Depot

History of Pueblo Chemical Depot

The U.S Army Pueblo Chemical Depot is one of the army installations in the United States that focuses on storing chemical weapons. The Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives, popularly known as the ACWA, is responsible for the destruction of the chemical weapons that are currently stored at Pueblo Chemical Depot. Working together with the closely-knit military community, ACWA has come up with a technology known as neutralization followed by bio-treatment. This technology was selected in 2002 in order to destroy the chemical weapons stockpile at Pueblo Chemical Depot.

It is impossible to understand the history of the Pueblo Chemical Depot if you are not familiar with the early beginnings of the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency. The United States actually began stockpiling chemical weapons to fight against Germany during World War I. These weapons were stored at U.S. military installations at home and overseas. The Edgewood Arsenal produces phosgene and mustard but the Arsenal is not big enough to store the agent. For this reason, new installations were constructed in Huntsville, Pine Bluff, Tooele, Ark, Utah, and Colorado.

When the World War II ended in 1945, the United States produced nerve agents at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal in Newport and Denver. During the 1960s, the US Army destroyed chemical weapons through open-pit burning, land burial, and ocean dumping. The National Academy of Sciences then recommended ocean dumping to be avoided. During the 1970s, the Army also started to develop environmentally-sound methods for disposing chemical weapons with the use of chemical neutralization and incineration. Project Eagle incinerated over 6 million pounds of mustard agent and neutralized 8 million pounds of nerve agent.

In 1981 the US Army started to produce facilities for binary chemical weapons at Pine Bluff Arsenal. It designed binary chemical weapons as a mix of two non-lethal chemicals to form nerve agents. This binary weapons program eventually led to chemical weapons elimination talks between the Soviet Union and the United States. Public Law 99-145 required the safe destruction of chemical weapons. It also obligated disposal facilities to be inspected and dismantled according to applicable laws and industry standards. The chemical stockpile was then stored at the Pueblo Chemical Depot and other military installations in the United States.

After years of constant reorganization, the US Army Chemical Materials Agency finally reached another important milestone in the year of 2011. Its improved safety procedures allowed the organization to complete over five years of continuous operation with a lost workday due to illnesses and injuries acquired from the job. That same year, CMA also achieved the destruction of over 85% of the US chemical stockpile. It has already instructed the Pueblo Chemical Depot to resume operations until it has destroyed all the chemical weapons it stores. The dismantling and restoration of the site is expected to occur by 2010.

Pueblo Chemical Depot vision and mission

The Pueblo Chemical Depot is handled by the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency. This organization continues to lead the world in chemical weapons destruction with a strong reputation for safely recovering, storing, assessing, and disposing of U.S. chemical weapons and other related materials. Today, CMA manages all chemical materials in the United States except for the disposal of two stockpiles that fall under the pilot neutralization program of the Department of Defense. CMA also works with response agencies through its Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program.

Since 1942, the vision and mission of Pueblo Chemical Depot continues to shift and expand. Today, the depot’s main goal is to ensure the safe storage of chemical weapons stockpile. It comprises over 23,000 acres of land so it is expected to report to the US Army Chemical Materials Agency on a regular basis. The people who operate the Pueblo Chemical Depot chose Bechtel Pueblo for its system contractor. Bechtel Pueblo will be responsible for designing, constructing, and pilot testing the Pueblo Chemical Pilot Plant until it has reached its goals and ceased to operate.

Pueblo Chemical Depot facts and figures

Under the supervision of the US Army Chemical Materials Agency, the Pueblo Chemical Depot is in charge of safely storing and destroying the country’s chemical weapons. It also aims to recover chemical warfare material and enhance national security without compromising the health and well-being of the public. The project manager of Chemical Stockpile Elimination plays the key role in managing the safe disposal of chemical weapons with the use of neutralization and incineration technologies. Previous disposal operations have already eliminated over 5% of the chemical agent inventory of the US Army.

When the Congress implemented the Chemical Weapons Alternative Program, the organization also tested two alternative technologies for the demilitarization of chemical weapons. In the Pueblo Chemical Depot, a combination of neutralization and bio-treatment will be used to destroy the stockpile of chemical weapons in Pueblo, Colorado. The neutralization will then by followed by super critical water oxidation. The contractors in both Kentucky and Colorado plan to design pilot test facilities that will lead to the safe and secure destruction of various chemical weapons and other related agents. The facility will then be closed until the US Army finds new use for it.

CMA is not only responsible for the disposal of chemical weapons but also for their safe storage before ultimate destruction. To ensure that the stockpile is handled safely during its storage life, the CMA also appointed the National Inventory Control Point to oversee the operations of the Pueblo Chemical Depot. Together with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, CMA also ensures that communities around the Pueblo Chemical Depot are prepared for emergencies.

Video – History of Pueblo Chemical Depot and the final phase