© 2024
NPR for Northern Colorado
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

US Reaches Milestone In Destroying Mustard Agent In Colorado

These "salt cakes" are what is left after shells containing mustard agent are processed at the pilot plant in Pueblo. The are considered hazardous waste and sent to a landfill.
Courtesy Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant
Salt cakes, which are the contaminated remnants of neutralized mustard agent, at the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant.

The Army says it has reached a milestone at a Colorado chemical weapons depot by destroying nearly 300,000 decades-old artillery shells containing mustard agent.

Walton Levi, site project manager of the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot, made the announcement in a depot publication on Tuesday.

READ MORE: In Pueblo, America's Chemical Weapons Era Nears An End

Depot workers destroyed the last of the 155mm World War II-era shells on Saturday. Each shell contained nearly 12 pounds of mustard agent, which can maim or kill, blistering skin, scarring eyes and inflaming airways.

The plant started operating in 2016 with more than 780,000 munitions in its original stockpile containing 2,500 U.S. tons of mustard agent. It is eradicating shells under an international treaty banning chemical weapons with a 2023 projected completion date.

Plant technicians will retrofit robots and other systems used to handle and destroy munitions before beginning work to eliminate 105mm projectiles with 3 pounds each of mustard agent.

Related Content
  • An Army depot in Pueblo has long been home to a toxic legacy: hundreds of thousands of chemical weapons. They've been stockpiled there for generations, and they must be destroyed according to an international treaty. Environmental concerns have delayed the effort, but now, the weapons are finally disappearing.
  • The Pueblo Chemical Depot is one of the top 10 U.S. Army domestic installations "at risk" because of climate change. That's according to the Army, which lists "desertification" as its concern for the depot where tens of thousands of chemical weapons are in the process of being destroyed under international treaty.