Decon testing completed at Arsenal; officials to proceed with final demolition

The Pine Bluff Chemical Agent Disposal Facility at the Pine Bluff Arsenal is entering its final stage of closure after completing decontamination testing on its processing areas and equipment.

PBCDF Site Project Manager Mark Greer said unventilated monitoring tests were safely finalized on Thursday.

According to a PBCDF news release, the tests “followed an extensive process during which chemical agent processing equipment was dismantled and thermally treated in the (plant’s) metal parts furnace.”

“Areas where agent processing occurred were thoroughly decontaminated,” the statement said.

The procedures were done in accordance with the site’s federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act permit.

The tests confirmed the decontamination. Final demolition will now begin and is expected to continue for about 10 months.

“This achievement represents the Army’s commitment to ensure the closure and clean up of the facility meets state and federal standards,” said Greer. “This is another step to ensuring the safety of the local community.”

PBCDF began its closure phase after chemical weapons disposal operations ended in November 2010.

Mike Noyes, project general manager for Washington Demilitarization Co., expressed appreciation to his employees for their role in the monitoring accomplishment and “preparations to turn the site back over” to the Arsenal. Washington is a division of URS Corporation.

Chemical weapons incineration at PBCDF began in March 2005. GB nerve agent-filled rockets, VX nerve agent-filled rockets and landmines, and mustard agent-filled ton containers were eliminated in separate campaigns.

The Arsenal initially housed roughly 12 percent of the nation’s chemical weapons stockpile. Production and storage of chemical munitions at the Army installation had dated back to World War II.

PBCDF construction was incorporated with the former BZ Agent Destruction Facility, which concluded its mission in 1990. BZ, a non-lethal hallucinating agent, was produced at the Arsenal from 1962-64 for use in the Vietnam War, but was never deployed. It remained in storage until disposal began more than a decade later.

A number of Arsenal employees – including Greer, Civilian Executive Assistant Larry Wright, and Greer’s predecessor, the late Randy Long – worked in both demilitarization efforts.

On Dec. 2, the Arsenal observed the 70th anniversary of its 1941 groundbreaking. Following Japan’s Dec. 7, 1941, attack on U.S. Naval forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Arsenal construction was accelerated.

The Arsenal is nearing its 70th anniversary of production. The Arsenal produced its first items – four-pound incendiary bombs for Great Britain – in July 1942.