BALTIMORE, MD (December 9, 2002) – The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has issued a permit modification to the U.S. Army Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) that authorizes operation of a facility that will be used to chemically neutralize a stockpile of mustard agent that is stored there.
“Maryland will be the first state in the nation to have its stockpile of chemical warfare agents completely destroyed,” said MDE Secretary Richard F. Pecora. “MDE will be working closely with the Army and its contractors to ensure that this process is done safely and with no threat to the health of the public or the environment.”
In accordance with the permit modification, workers will remove the mustard agent from bulk containers in an enclosed chamber. The drained agent will then be pumped to a sealed tank where it will be vigorously mixed with hot water and a caustic compound. The resulting chemical reaction will destroy the mustard agent, creating less toxic compounds. After testing verifies that wastewater from the process is free of mustard agent, it will be shipped in tank trucks to a commercial treatment facility in New Jersey. Drained, empty containers will be temporarily stored until the entire stockpile has been destroyed and then subjected to further decontamination.
Transfer and treatment operations take place in a fully enclosed system. As an additional safeguard, the facility includes a ventilation and carbon filtration system that maintains a constant flow of air from the outside into the process building. Air from the building is sent through carbon filters before it is exhausted to the outside. A sophisticated indoor monitoring system will provide rapid warning if any agent is detected within the building so that corrective measures can be taken.
Before operations involving mustard agent begin, the facility will undergo a comprehensive testing program to verify the adequacy of facility design, construction and operational procedures. MDE staff will oversee this testing phase.
Full-scale operations are expected to begin in March, 2003. Destruction of the bulk of the stockpile should be completed by September 2003. The emptied containers will be decontaminated by September 2004.
After the APG stockpile has been destroyed, the facility will be decontaminated and closed in accordance with a closure plan that is subject to MDE approval.
Throughout the operation of the facility, MDE will continue to work with APG to assure that the community continues to be kept informed of the status of the project and the progress in eliminating the mustard agent stockpile.