Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Newport Chemical Depot (NECD)
Newport, Indiana

The Newport Chemical Depot (NECD), opened in 1941 as the Wabash River Ordnance Works, was one of nine Army installations in the United States that stored chemical weapons. Various warfare materials, including chemical agent, were manufactured at the site. In the late 1960's the United States stopped production and shipment of chemical agent and weapons.

When production ended at NECD, the Army had approximately four percent of the nation's original chemical agent stockpile to safely store. The depot stored only one chemical—nerve agent VX. The agent was stored in sturdy steel ton containers; there were no chemical munitions at the depot. The Newport Chemical Agent Disposal Facility (NECDF) was designed for the sole purpose of destroying the chemical agent stored at NECD. Construction of the NECDF was completed in June 2003. Agent destruction operations began in May 2005 and completed in August 2008. NECDF’s permit was officially closed in January 2010.

Newport Chemical Depot (NECD or the Depot) is located in west central Indiana, approximately 2 miles south of Newport and 70 miles west of Indianapolis. NECD has a multi-faceted mission. NECD was transferred from the U.S. Army Industrial Operations Command to the U.S. Army Chemical and Biological Defense Command in 1995. Both of these are subordinate organizations of the U.S. Army Material Command which continues to have major command responsibilities. NECD is a government-owned, contractor operated facility. There are 11 civil service employees and one military commander that comprise the Contracting Officer's Representative (COR) staff. Mason & Hanger Corporation, with headquarters in Lexington, Kentucky, is the Operating Contractor. Approximately 222 full-time contractor employees work at NECD. The total acreage of NECD is 7,098, with easement rights in effect for an additional 1,400 acres. In 2005, DoD recommended to close newport Chemical Depot as part of its BRAC Recommendedations (see below for details). Workers began chemically neutralizing 1,269 tons of VX nerve agent late in the summer of 2004.

On November 14, 1941, authorization was granted for the construction of an RDX facility two miles south of Newport, Indiana. The E.I. Du Pont de Nemours & Company, Incorporated (Wilmington, Delaware) was awarded the construction contract for the construction of a five-line RDX facility in December 1941. Construction of this RDX Manufacturing Area (RDX-MA) comprising approximately 300 acres in the north central portion the site, was completed in October 1943 at a cost of $45,717,500. In 1951, while Du Pont was manufacturing heavy water, the Liberty Powder Defense Corporation of East Alton, Illinois, rehabilitated two of the five RDX lines and related facilities at a cost of $4,361,652. Liberty Powder Defense Corporation operated the plant under contract with the U.S. Army from August 1951 until March 1957. During the period 1957 through 1960, there was no production at the site.

In 1959, the U.S. Army announced the award of a contract to the FMC Corporation of New York City, New York, for the design and construction of a facility to manufacture Chemical Agent VX. The facility was located in the area formerly used for the production of heavy water. The new facility, completed in 1961 at a cost of $16,498,000 and operated under US Army contract by FMC, remained in production until 1968 when it was placed in standby. The completion of the new VX nerve agent production plant at the Newport Chemical Plant in 1961 created a need for disposal specialists at the site. A detachment of Technical Escort Unit personnel was assigned to the plant the same year.

The Army produced its entire stockpile of VX, a rapid-acting, lethal nerve agent, at Newport. Munitions such as land mines, spray tanks and rockets were shipped to Newport by rail, filled with chemical agent, then shipped to U.S. Defense sites worldwide. President Richard Nixon halted production of all chemical weapons, including VX, in 1968 and declared a moratorium on shipment in 1969, leaving the final two batches of 1,269 tons in storage on the depot. The manufacturing plant was decontaminated as much as was possible without disassembly, then fenced off and left to rust.

[Ton Container - Horizontal View]The nerve agent VX stockpiled at the Newport Chemical Depot in Indiana was stored in 1,690 steel ton containers commonly known as "TCs". These containers are designed specifically for the maintenance, storage, and transportation of bulk chemical agent. The Newport Chemical Depot (NECD) stores bulk nerve agent VX in ton containers that are over six and one-half feet long, and almost three feet in diameter. The solid steel sidewalls are roughly a half inch thick, and each end is about one inch thick. When empty, the containers weigh 1,600 pounds. When filled to capacity, the containers can hold up to 170 gallons of liquid, though the TCs stored at Newport have a layer of nitrogen gas that occupies a 10 percent void within the TC. Ton containers are designed to withstand pressures up to 25 times greater than the pressure of our atmosphere, and internal pressures up to 500 pounds per square inch. The ton containers at Newport are stacked in rows three containers high, and are clamped together for stability on top of wooden concave cradles inside a single warehouse of corrugated steel sheet metal supported by steel beams. In order to provide maximum protection to facility personnel and the environment, storage personnel are trained in handling ton containers storing chemical agent and monitoring the containers for signs of leakage.

The Newport Chemical Depot employed numerous security measures to ensure the safety of the stockpile. The depot entrances are guarded 24-hours per day and the outer perimeter is secured by a single chain link barbed wire fence. The storage area is surrounded by double fences and equipped with intrusion detection devices and television monitors. In addition, personnel entering the area must follow strict safety and security procedures.

The chemical agent storage area had alarms and detection systems that monitor the air 24-hours per day for signs of chemical agent release. In addition, four Automatic Continuous Air Monitoring Systems (ACAMS) monitor the storage building. Should the ACAMS detect chemical agent vapor, it would activate a series of alarms, both visual and audible, and alert emergency response teams. Certified personnel also conduct visual monitoring regularly to inspect the condition of the ton containers housed in the storage building. If a ton container shows evidence of leaking, detailed emergency response procedures are in place to rectify the problem and to protect the health of site personnel and the community.

The Newport Chemical Depot continued to store bulk chemical agent in ton containers until it was safely disposed of by the Chemical Stockpile Disposal Program. Once the agent had been removed, the containers were cleaned and decontaminated in accordance with federal, state and local laws, and then shipped off-site for recycling.

Under the terms of the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty ratified in April 1997, the U.S. must destroy its entire inventory of chemical weapons and production facilities by 2007. The Army planned to break ground in late 1999 for a pilot neutralization plant at the Newport depot to destroy the VX stockpile. The facility would destroy 4.1% of the nation's original chemical stockpile including nerve agent in ton containers.

VX stored in bulk containers will be pilot tested at NECD using the chemical neutralization process followed by supercritical water oxidation (SCWO) as a potential disposal technology for the bulk agent VX stored at Newport Chemical Depot (NECD). The proposed facility would be used to demonstrate, as part of a research and development program, the neutralization process followed by SCWO, to destroy VX agent currently stored in ton containers at NECD. At one time, the option of sending the neutralization hydrolysate to an off-site biotreatment facility was under consideration by the Army. However, technical and programmatic evaluations have concluded that off-site biotreatment is not suitable at this time.

On February 18, 1999, the Army awarded the $295 million contract to Parsons Infrastructure and Technology Group, Inc., and its partnership team headed by AlliedSignal to complete the facility design; build, operate and close the disposal facility. Within a year, construction was scheduled to begin on this new facility that will destroy 1,269 tons of liquid VX stored in carbon steel ton containers. The Parsons-Allied Signal Team would dispose of the Newport stockpile using a low-pressure, low-temperature neutralization process, followed by a post-treatment process called supercritical water oxidation (SCWO)which reduces the neutralized by product to distilled water and salt.

VX was produced in four steps, numbered zero through three. The first three steps are located outside the chemical agent storage area and were scheduled to be completely demolished by August 2002. Step III, which is located inside the storage area, was to be completed by February 2007. Step III was where the precursors were combined to actually create the VX. During VX production the installation's contractor was FMC Corp. The depot's contractor, Mason & Hanger Corp., employs 205 workers who provide safe and secure storage of the stockpile.

BRAC 2005

In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended to close Newport Chemical Depot. There was no additional chemical demilitarization workload slated to go to Newport Chemical Depot. The projected date for completion of existing workload was 2nd quarter of 2008. There would be no further use for Newport Chemical Depot.

The total one time cost to the Department of Defense to implement this recommendation would be $7.1M. The net of all costs and savings to the Department during the implementation period would be a savings of $95.6M. Annual recurring savings to the Department after implementation would be $35.7M with a payback expected immediately. The Net present value of the costs and savings to the Department over 20 years would be a savings of $436.2M. Assuming no economic recovery, this recommendation could result in a maximum potential reduction of 838 jobs (571 direct jobs and 267 indirect jobs) over the 2006 - 2011 period in the Terre Haute, IN Metropolitan Statistical Area (0.9 percent). Environmentally, continued management and/or deed restrictions would be necessary to ensure future protection of the Federally listed species. Restoration, monitoring, access control, and deed restrictions might be required for former waste management areas to prevent disturbane, health and safety risks, and/or long term release of toxins to environmental media. Restoration and monitoring of contaminated sites would likely be required after closure to prevent significant long-term impacts to the environment. This recommendation would require spending approximately $1.3M for environmental compliance activities. Newport Chemical Depot reported approximately $1.2M in environmental restoration costs DoD must pay regardless of whether an installation is closed, realigned, or remains open.

    Disposal Schedule:
    Construction:     2000-2002*
    Testing:          2002-2003*
    Operations:       2004*
    Closure:          2005*
    * Dates are based on using the neutralization process

At the former VX production facility, tanks like this one were used to hold acids which were used in the production of TNT. The production took place at the Newport Chemical Depot from 1973 through 1974.

At the former VX production plant, tanks like this one were used to hold chemical agent VX prior to the agent being transferred to ton containers or munitions. The Newport Chemical Depot has eight of the product bulk storage tanks.

At the former VX production facility, at the Newport Chemical Depot, scrubber towers were used to clean air from inside a building before the air was released.

Bulk Storage Tank at the Former Production Facility. Tanks like this one were used to hold chemical agent VX prior to the agent being transferred to ton containers or munitions. The Newport Chemical Depot has eight empty product bulk storage tanks.

This former TNT plant consisted of five production lines. TNT was produced at the Newport Chemical Depot from 1974 through 1975.

These structures are part of the former nerve agent VX production facility. This is a view of various steps, from the northwest.

This building holds a portion of the chemical stockpile at the Newport Chemical Depot. The stockpile consists of 1,690 ton containers, all holding the chemical agent VX.

Newport Chemical Depot (NECD) is a government-owned, contractor operated facility covering 7,098 acres.
Additional storage facilities comprise much of the western portion of the facility. These igloos are apparently not currently used to store chemical weapons.
During the 1950s the E.I. Du Pont de Nemours & Company manufactured heavy water at Newport. Starting in 1961 the FMC Corporation manufactured Chemical Agent VX at this facility until 1968 when it was placed in standby. The manufacturing plant was decontaminated without disassembly. The nerve agent VX stockpiled at Newport is stored in 1,690 steel ton containers inside a single warehouse constructed of corrugated steel sheet metal.
Construction of the five-line RDX Manufacturing Area (RDX-MA) comprising approximately 300 acres in the north central portion the site was completed in October 1943.
The U.S. Coast Guard has a 101 acre permit for its LORAN-C Station.

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