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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Pine Bluff Chemical Activity (PBCA)
Pine Bluff, Arkansas

Pine Bluff Arsenal (PBA) was one of nine Army installations in the United States that stored chemical weapons. The arsenal's chemical weapons stockiple consisted of various munitions and ton containers, containing GB or VX nerve agents or HD blister agent. The chemical weapons originally stored at the arsenal consist of various munitions and ton containers, containing GB or VX nerve agents or mustard blister agent. The Army designed the Pine Bluff Chemical Agent Disposal Facility (PBCDF) to destroy this chemical weapons stockpile, comprising approximately 12 percent of the nation’s original chemical weapons, in November 2010. This marked the end of nearly seven decades of chemical weapons storage at the Arsenal. The facility and storage area are undergoing closure operations in accordance with strict internal policies and procedures and federal laws and regulations.

PBCDF started disposal operations by destroying M55 GB rockets and later GB containers, with the last GB rocket being processed in May 2007. This marked the end of all GB munitions at PBA. The facility began processing M55 VX rockets in October 2007, with the last VX rocket being destroyed in February 2008, marking the destruction of all stockpile chemical agent-filled rockets at PBA. They began their final campaign, destruction of mustard agent-filled ton containers in December 2008. The facility used high-temperature incineration technology, a technology employed by the Army for more than a decade, safely and successfully disposing of more than 80 percent of the nation's original chemical weapons, including the 12 percent stored at PBA. Neutralization of the chemicals was completed in October 2006, and demolition of the last IBPF building took place in December 2006 – the final former chemical weapons production facility destroyed in the United States.

Pine Bluff Arsenal located in Southeast Arkansas, is 35 miles Southeast of Little Rock and 8 miles Northwest of the City of Pine Bluff. PBA is bordered on the East by the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System and on the West by the Union Pacific Railroad and U.S. Highway 65, making it directly accessible by rail, road, or waterway. The City of Pine Bluff boasts on of the busiest ports on the Arkansas River and serves as a transportation hub for the regional railroads. PBA is located 35 miles south of the Little Rock National Airport, and 40 miles from Little Rock Air Force Base.

PBA is 8 1/2 miles long by 2 3/4 miles wide and covers 14,944 acres. It includes 952 buildings which provide 3.3 million square feet of floor space, including storage bunkers. It also has 42 miles of railroad track and 2 million square yards of roads and paved surfaces. Overall employment as of the end of FY96 included 886 Arsenal civilian employees, 128 civilians employed by tenant activities, and a total of 59 military personnel. Payroll for FY96 was $44,334,685.

The facility was established in November 1941 as the Chemical Warfare Arsenal; it was renamed Pine Bluff Arsenal 4 months later. Its original mission was as a manufacturing center for magnesium and thermite munitions. The arsenal produced its first incendiary grenade on 31 July 1942. During World War II and the years following, the arsenal' s manufacturing capabilities continued to expand to manufacture, load and store war gases; and to fill smoke and white phosphorus munitions. The expansion included facilities to manufacture and store various types of chemical-filled weapons. Arsenal-produced conventional munitions were used in the Korean and Vietnam wars. During the war years, the arsenal produced millions of grenades, bombs, and shells as well as millions of pounds of mustard and Lewisite. While the arsenal manufactured these agents during World War II and remains a storage site for a portion of the US chemical defense stockpile, it has never produced a lethal nerve agent.

A biological weapons mission was added in 1953 and continued until 1969. Pine Bluff was the site of the Production Development Laboratories, responsible for manufacturing and loading biological munitions. President Nixon banned biological weapons in 1969 and manufacturing ceased. The bioweapons production facility at Pine Bluff was abandoned and partly dismantled in 1969. In 1972, this part of the complex was renamed the National Center for Toxicological Research, removed from the jurisdiction of the Arsenal and placed under the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

Currently, it manufactures chemical, smoke, riot control, incendiary, and pyrotechnic mixes and munitions. Limited production facilities also are used to manufacture chemical defense items such as clothing and protective masks. Pine Bluff is the only active site at which white phosphorous-filled weapons are loaded.

The Pine Bluff Chemical Activity maintains its stockpile on 431 acres of land is located in the northwestern portion of Pine Bluff Arsenal.

Selected as the sole site for the Binary Production Facility in 1978, the program was active until 1990.

The Pine Bluff Chemical Activity's specific mission is to store its stockpile of 3,850 tons of chemical weapons until they are disposed of through the Chemical Stockpile Disposal Program. The Pine Bluff Chemical Disposal Facility will use incineration technology to safely dispose of 12.3 percent of the original US stockpile of chemical weapons. In fact, the U.S. Army is awaiting approval from the Arkansas Department of Pollution Control and Ecology to build a chemical weapons disposal facility.

The Pine Bluff Chemical Activity has safely stored blister agent, or mustard nerve agents since the 1950s and 1960s when the weapons were brought to the Arsenal. The stockpile consists of rockets containing the liquid nerve agents GB and VX and one-ton bulk storage containers with mustard. The safe storage of the entire stockpile is overseen by the U.S. Army Chemical and Biological Defense Command, who is charged with monitoring the storage.

    Disposal Schedule:
    Construction:     1999
    Testing:          2001
    Operations:       2003
    Closure:          2007

    AGENT        ITEM                  QUANTITY    POUNDS
    HT-Blister   Ton Containers          3,591   6,249,100
    HD-Blister   Ton Containers            107     188,400
    GB-Nerve     M55 Rockets            90,231     965,480
    GB-Nerve     M56 Rocket Warheads       178       1,900
    VX-Nerve     M55 Rockets            19,582     195,820
    VX-Nerve     M56 Rocket Warheads        26         260
    VX-Nerve     Mines                   9,378      98,460

Pine Bluff Arsenal possesses diverse capabilities in the field of chemical/biological protection. These capabilities include:

  • Frabrication, fill and testing of chemical/biological filters in various sizes and configurations
  • Chemical impregnation, repair, renovation, and testing of chemical protective clothing Rebuild and calibration of Defensive Chemical Test Equipment
  • Worldwide certification to Department of Defense and contractors engaged in the testing or manufacturing of individual protective equipment
  • Protective mask rebuild/repair

The Arsenal's involvement in the area of protective masks began in the late 1970s when Pine Bluff Arsenal was given the mission to produce M24/M25 A1 Masks. Today, Pine Bluff Arsenal is the United States Army's sole facility for repair and rebuild of the M17 series, M9A1, M24, M25A1, and M40 masks, and the M20 breathing apparatus.

As the only manufacturer of white phosphorus munitions in the western hemisphere, Pine Bluff Arsenal is modernizing the WP plant originally constructed in the 1940s. In late September 2005, officials signed a $20 million contract for the modernization project with Shaw Environmental, Inc., headquartered in Stoughton, Mass. This is the contract largest project undertaken on the industrial side. The modernization effort will improve the safety, environmental performance, flexibility of the operations, and efficiency of the filling of the munitions. The entire project - from design to contract - has been a joint effort with PBA, the Chemical Materiel Command and PEO Ammunition Office.

One of the largest investments in PBA's industrial capacity since the early 1980s, this modernization will be key component of posturing the Arsenal for future workload. It will add state-of-the-art safety features and greatly improve production efficiency.

PBA is the only facility that uses the raw materials, which are extracted from phosphorus rocks, and is a by-product. The form used by the military is highly energetic (active) and ignites once it is exposed to oxygen. This makes it absolutely essential to keep it in an environment that is away from oxygen - either inside an inert atmosphere or under a layer of water. In a heated format, it is extremely dangerous and can create damaging burns.

The design phase of the project, which took about two and a half years, was a collaborative effort between PBA, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) and Jacobs Engineering Group. The WP project is a very complex system because not only it replaces the manufacturing lines, but also replaces the complete system - including supporting elements such as the scrubber and wastewater systems. This is going to introduce the latest environmental equipment that is available to try to minimize the waste generated. It is going to be more efficient.

The line will be downsized as a result of the modernization, going from four to one production line. The requirement for WP has been reduced. That is the reason for downsizing. However, the Arsenal is optimizing the process at the same time and lean manufacturing concepts will be introduced. The unique part of the process, is that WP production will continue through the construction phase. The WP facility is one of the largest in production at the Arsenal. The plan is to divide the building in half and have the existing equipment be operational during installation of the new systems. Three new buildings are also going to be added to the new facility - a scrubber and wastewater system, and storage facility.

Fabrication and installation was expected to take approximately 15 months. Testing of the new line was tentatively scheduled for early 2007 and the new systems was set to be online by second quarter of 2007. Additional parts of the overall project - part of the capital investment portion - were awarded to Tri-State Industrial Contractors, Inc. of Texarkana, Ark., for infrastructure work; High Voltage Maintenance, Inc., of Quitman, Ark., for electrical work; and Quality Fence Company of Pine Bluff for fence work.

The Pine Bluff Chemical Activity storage area is protected by many security measures. The activity stores 12% of the nation's original chemical stockpile.

The former BZ disposal facility destroyed the U.S. stockpile of the incapacitating agent BZ between 1988 and 1990. Shown is the duct which removed ventilated air from the facility to the charcoal filtration system.

The former BZ disposal facility destroyed the U.S. stockpile of the incapacitating agent BZ between 1988 and 1990. The nine acre site will be expanded to 25 acres in order to build the Pine Bluff Chemical Agent Disposal Facility.

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Page last modified: 10-09-2013 14:10:00 ZULU