Utah Chemical Weapon Storage Facility Begins Demolition

Jan 9, 2014

A Cold War-era chemical weapon storage facility in Utah entered demolition phase this week, a goal in place since its conception.

Cranes prepare to lift a 71-ton rail car from Deseret Chemical Depot during closure operations.
Credit U.S. Army Chemical Materials Activity

The Deseret Chemical Depot, located 45 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, began its long-awaited demolition process Thursday.

At the height of its storage use, the facility housed 43 percent of the nation’s chemical weapons, which according to Gary McCloskey, URS General Manager for the site included rockets, mines, projectiles, cartridges and bombs.

"When the plant was built, public law indicated to the army that upon completion of the operation the facility had to be decontaminated and destroyed," said Donald Campbell, Army Site Project Manager for the facility. "So we are following public law."

The weapon housing facility began construction in 1989 and the disposal operation for the stored chemicals on-site has been in effect since 1996; demolition is the final stage of the operation.

The U.S. Army Chemical Materials Activity’s longest running incinerator, which is also currently the nation’s last-running chemical weapons incinerator, will be taken apart during the demolition process. The furnace reportedly destroyed toxins and blister and nerve agents that accumulated at the site during the Cold War.

Under an international treaty, the U.S. Army has destroyed 90 percent of its chemical weapons.

"Actually the U.S. is intending on destroying 100 percent of its chemical weapons," said McCloskey. "90 percent have been complete, the last 10 percent are in Pueblo, Colorado and Bluegrass, Kentucky, and those facilities are in the latter stages of construction and once the construction is complete, they will go into operation and destroy the stockpiles there."

The facility ceased operations in early 2012 and the demolition of the Deseret Chemical Depot marks a significant milestone in the nation’s chemical weapons stockpile elimination program.