As of Wednesday afternoon, Candace Coyle, the new project site manager for Blue Grass Chemical Agent Pilot Plant (BGCAPP), announced that 30 mustard filled munitions had been successfully destroyed since the start of destruction on June 7.
“Folks are actively working (at the plant) but we are going slow, we are crawling,” Coyle said. “Before we even think about walking, before we even think about running. So even with all the parameters we were not going to start until we were ready to do so.”
George Shuplinkov, the chief of staff at the Blue Grass Army Depot, said that June 6 — the original date operations were set to begin — was a big day in history, and that the group held off one day “to make sure everything was ready to go, and for lucky number seven.”
“I think everyone here ought to appreciate it, I know I do from my first day here in 2004, that we actually are destroying rounds,” he said. “It’s a huge endeavor that we have done here thanks to ACWA’s (Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives) efforts to lead this charge and you all don’t realize the wheel has been cranked and it is getting done and I think it showed on June 7. …
"I think that for Madison County, this is a mark on the calendar, it’s a historic mark that we need to maintain."
There were a lot of firsts at Wednesday’s meeting other than the startup of the elimination of chemicals — as it was Coyle’s first CDCAB meeting as the plant’s site manager, and it was the first meeting in CDCAB's 16-year history without co-chair Craig Williams, who was absent due to health issues.
But, Williams made sure he was still there in spirit, passing along comments to Sarah Marko, the manager of the Blue Grass Chemical Stockpile Outreach Office (ORO).
Marko read Williams comments aloud which said, “It must have been all the excitement knowing that op(eration)s were about to begin that sent him into a brain explosion.”
Later in the meeting, Coyle and Ron Hink, the project manager for Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass (BPBG), gave updates regarding the main plant, which will begin destruction of sarin and VX nerve agent in the fall of 2019 by process of neutralization followed by supercritical water oxidation.
Hink reported that 56 of 59 systems were turned over to operations including the electrical distribution system, site stand-by diesel generator and an uninterruptible power supply system. Currently, the main plant is undergoing completion of area air monitoring system initial baselines, and testing of a metal parts treater is underway.
In regards to the addition of a second, larger static detonation chamber (SDC), the SDC 2000, which would process M55 rockets on site, Coyle reported that two people came to the environmental assessment public meeting held on May 21.
The proposed SDC 2000 will process drained rocket warheads, as well as overpacked munitions which are overpacked in larger, sealed, steel containers to keep stored. If BGAD were to process these munitions in the already standing BGCAPP Main Plant, personnel in agent protective suits would be required to open the overpack and remove the leaking munition, making it a higher risk operation.
Michael Abaie, ACWA’s program executive officer, said that currently, the group is in the “permitting phase with a goal of procurement of the facility.”
Abaie explained that once the second chamber is approved, an order would be placed to begin construction which could take anywhere from 15 to 18 months to complete. He predicts that once the site construction did begin, it would be tentatively finished in late 2021.
At Wednesday’s meeting, it was reported that the BGCAPP project employs 1,228 people — 952 of which are county employees (with the BGAD) and 276 staffers are within the Richmond city limits.
Throughout the project’s completion, $178 million has been spent with Kentucky companies, and $105 million has been spent in Madison and surrounding counties with a local payroll to date of $965 million.
Although Williams was not present to give the impact update himself, Coyle relayed that Williams ensured conversations have started regarding the economic development plan for post-demilitarization operations in 2023.
The next CDCAB meeting will be held Sept. 11, 1:30 p.m., at the Perkins Building on EKU’s campus.
Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter at @TaylorSixRR.