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Blue Grass Army Depot says chemical weapon destruction plant’s decommissioning ahead of schedule


Updated on Thursday, March 7, 2024 at 12:15 p.m.

Members of the Kentucky Chemical Demilitarization Citizens’ Advisory Commission and the Chemical Destruction Community Advisory Board met Wednesday to hear an update on the Blue Grass Army Depot’s chemical weapons destruction plant closing operations.

Depot representatives say the main plant’s decommissioning and decontaminating is coming along ahead of schedule. All demilitarization equipment has been removed from its Munitions Demilitarization Building.

As of this week, 21 percent of drained VX warheads – or 3,749 of 17,739 total – have been destroyed, alongside 30 percent of the plant’s drained GB warheads, or 15,649 out of 51,059.

This comes after the main mission of destroying the chemical weapons stockpile at the plant was finished last July. It was the last stockpile in the nation to be fully destroyed.

Ron Hink is the project manager at Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass and in charge of the teams responsible for the plant’s closure. He says the fast pace is because of how clean the plant was before the decontamination process.

“It's just because there's just less material we have to work with as processing, Hink said. “So we're being rewarded for running the clean operation, which is, I think, the way it should be, if you do the right thing, you should get rewarded.”

But that also comes with staff drawdowns. 57 workers left the plant last month as part of regular cutbacks, with staff now numbering 1,277 workers.

“July, we've got another reduction of 45 to 50 (workers),” Hink said. “But it's not until the March, May time frame of 2025 that we see the most significant adjustments so far. That's about 175.”

A local job fair is planned for April 24-25 to help the workforce transition.

The Depot has also scheduled a public meeting 2 p.m. April 10 at the Madison County Joint Information Center. It’s meant for locals to learn about the Depot’s open burn and open detonation operations.

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Editor’s note: This story was updated to clarify the progress being made on the Depot's main plant closure. A previous version of the story mistakenly said secondary waste destruction was ahead of schedule instead of the main plant's decommissioning process.

Shepherd joined WEKU in June 2023 as a staff reporter. He most recently worked for West Virginia Public Broadcasting as General Assignment Reporter. In that role, he collected interviews and captured photos in the northern region of West Virginia. Shepherd holds a master’s degree in Digital Marketing Communication and a bachelor’s in music from West Virginia University.
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