Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


Edgewood Chemical Activity (ECA)
Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland

The Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. was one of nine Army installations in the United States that stored chemical agent. The Army worked in partnership with state and local government agencies, as well as federal agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to safeguard the local community and protect the environment during storage and disposal of the chemical agent.

Construction of the Aberdeen Chemical Agent Disposal Facility (ABCDF) was completed in 2002. Agent destruction operations began in April 2003 and were completed in February 2006. ABCDF's permit was officially closed in June 2007. In response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Army accelerated the neutralization schedule for the agent stored at the Edgewood Area. The Army worked with state regulators, local and national elected officials, and other partners in implementing the accelerated neutralization plan. Aberdeen Proving Ground, the Army's oldest active proving ground, was established on October 20, 1917, six months after the United States entered World War I, to provide the military a facility where design and testing of ordnance materiel could be carried out in close proximity to the nation's industrial and shipping centers. The installation comprises two principal areas, separated by the Bush River. The northern area is known as the Aberdeen Area, and the southern sector, the Edgewood Area -- formerly Edgewood Arsenal. The two areas were administratively combined in 1971.

Aberdeen Proving Ground is home to more than 50 tenants and a host of satellite activities. Among the major tenants are the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, U.S. Army Chemical and Biological Defense Command, U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense, Program Manager for Chemical Demilitarization, and major elements of the Army Research Laboratory.

Edgewood was established in November, 1917 as a chemical weapons research, development and testing facility. It provided chemical production and artillery shell filling facilities to respond to the chemical weapons which were being used in the fighting in Europe. The main chemicals produced were phosgene, chloropicrin and mustard. After the war, activity at the facility decreased. During the 1930s, the Edgewood Arsenal served as the center of Chemical Warfare Service activities. Workers developed gas masks and protective clothing, tested chemical agent dispersal methods, and trained Army and Navy personnel. During World War II, President Roosevelt declared that the United States would not use chemical weapons offensively but would use them defensively. The Edgewood Arsenal continued to produce chemical agents and countermeasures in case they became necessary. However, the declaration was an effective deterrent, and the Axis powers did not use chemical weapons against military targets. Workers at Edgewood also tested and developed flame weapons and smoke screens.

After World War II, both Aberdeen and Edgewood experienced decreases in activity, with slight increases during the Korean Conflict and Vietnam War. Chemical production at Edgewood ceased, and the facility's focus shifted to research and development, especially for chemical weapon defensive measures. The Army Chemical and Biological Defense Command (CBDCOM) is home of the Army's nonmedical chemical and biological defense activities, including research, development, acquisition, and remediation issues associated with chemical and biological defense. It is this activity that has the responsibility for the destruction of the U.S. stockpile of chemical agents and munitions as well as non-stockpile weapons, munitions, and associated equipment and devices.

The Army has used portions of the Bush River Area since 1918 for training, testing and disposal activities as well as chemical storage. The 500-acre site consists of wooded areas, open storage yards, warehouses, and storage igloos. Current activities at the Bush River Area involve storage of bulk chemical agents and wastes.

On 02 October 1998 the Army awarded a systems contract for the Aberdeen Chemical Agent Disposal Facility (ABCDF), which will destroy the mustard agent stockpile stored at the Edgewood Area of APG. The $306 million contract has been awarded to Bechtel National, Inc. of San Francisco, Calif., for the design completion, construction, equipment procurement and installation, systemization, operation, and closure of the facility. The Aberdeen Chemical Agent Disposal Facility destroyed the mustard agent using a technology known as neutralization followed by biodegradation. The facility was built adjacent to the chemical agent storage yard , where the steel containers were stored in a secure and restricted area.

             CURRENT SUMMARY SCHEDULE FOR THE ABERDEEN
                 CHEMICAL AGENT DISPOSAL FACILITY
     EVENT                            DATE
     Contract Award                      1998
     Final Facility Design/
        Construction                  1998 - 2003
     Systemization                    2002 - 2004
     Pilot Testing                    2004 - 2005
     Disposal Operations              2005 - 2006
     Facility Closure                 2006 - 2007
    

On February 2, 2005, the US Army removed the last container of mustard agent from Aberdeen's Chemical Agent Storage Yard ending 61 years of the agent's bulk storage at Aberdeen Proving Ground. The container was taken to the next-door Aberdeen Chemical Agent Disposal Facility for destruction, thereby making APG the first of eight U.S. Army stockpile sites in the continental United States to have emptied its storage area eliminating any risk the stored agent posed to surrounding communities.

The Chemical Agent Storage Yard (CASY) includes the 1,818 one-ton containers that are located near the Bush River in a restricted section of Aberdeen Proving Ground's Edgewood Area.

The Chemical Demilitarization Training Facility (CDTF) was a five-building complex located at the Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. This unique $51 million facility serves as a training ground for the men and women who will operate and maintain chemical weapon disposal facilities in the United States. The CDTF enables demilitarization program personnel to learn how to safely manage the different types of chemical agents that are handled at disposal facilities by providing the opportunity to practice procedures in an agent-free environment. As part of its broad curriculum, the CDTF offers 2,000 course hours ranging from basic introductory courses to highly specialized training sessions. The CDTF also provides refresher workshops and emergency response training in other areas associated with safe and efficient disposal of chemical agents and munitions. The CDTF is operated by General Physics Corporation of Columbia, Maryland.

U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense [USAMRICD] traces its origins to elements of the Army Medical Department that were responsible for medical defense against the chemical weapons used in World War I. In October 1922, the Medical Research Division was organized at Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland. This Division was renamed the U.S. Army Biomedical Laboratory in the early 1960's. Command of the Laboratory was assumed by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command--now the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command--in 1979 when the Army Surgeon General took control of all aspects of medical chemical defense.


Built in 1941, the Chemical Agent Storage Yard (CASY) is used for the storage of bulk mustard agents. CASY is located at the Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

Included in the stockpile of mustard agent stored at the Chemical Agent Storage Yard are 1,818 ton containers. The ton containers are designed for the safe storage of bulk chemical agent.

At the Chemical Agent Storage Yard, ton containers holding mustard agent are stacked eight containers on the bottom and seven in the middle row. Empty containers on the top row are configured to protect the middle and bottom rows of containers.

At the Chemical Agent Storage Yard, ton containers holding mustard agent rest on railroad ties and are secured with steel cables.

Visual inspection of ton containers, known as first entry monitoring, is conducted by a two-man team. The ton containers store the bulk chemical agent mustard, known as HD, the only chemical agent stored at Edgewood Chemical Activity's Chemical Agent Storage Yard.

The valves and plugs on each of the 1,818 ton containers are inspected regularly at the Chemical Agent Storage Yard.

Ten chemical agent monitoring systems operate 24 hours a day at the Edgewood Chemical Activity storage yard. The monitoring systems are located around the perimeter of the storage yard with chemical agent sample ports located just beyond the inner fence.

Identification Signs indicate what is stored at the Chemical Agent Storage Yard and what type of protective gear is needed for entry into the location.



NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list