From the 1940s through the 1960s, the U.S. Army produced various chemical weapons and the munitions – bombs, artillery shells, and similar ordnance – necessary to deploy these chemicals on the battlefield. The U.S. never used these weapons in war. For decades, they sat in storage, slowly deteriorating.In 1986, the Army had nine chemical weapon stockpiles:
- Aberdeen Proving Ground (Aberdeen, MD)
- Anniston Army Depot (Anniston, AL)
- Blue Grass Army Depot (“BGAD” – Richmond, KY)
- Deseret Chemical Depot (Toole, UT)
- Johnson Atoll
- Newport Chemical Depot (Newport, IN)
- Pine Bluff Arsenal (Pine Bluff, AR)
- Pueblo Chemical Depot (Pueblo, CO)
- Umatilla Army Depot (Umatilla, OR)
That year is significant because in 1986, Congress acknowledged that American defense policy no longer accommodated the use of chemical weapons and directed the Army to destroy these stockpiles (if you’re doing research for a term paper, you’ll want to look up Public Law 99-145, Title 14, Part B, Section 1412 for the references). The same mandate also required the Army to ensure the safety of the communities surrounding each stockpile.
To fulfill the safety part of this mission, the Army established the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program (CSEPP) in 1988. CSEPP is a partnership between the Army, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the state and local emergency response agencies near each stockpile.
Since 1988, seven of these sites have destroyed their stockpiles safely, without incident. At Pueblo Chemical Depot, destruction is currently under way and is expected to be complete in 2017. At BGAD, the destruction facilities are under construction. They’re expected to begin operations in late 2017 and complete destruction by 2023.