Contract awarded to destroy World War I chemical munitions

The French Ministry of the Interior has awarded the Atlanta-based Integrated Environmental Services a contract to design and build equipment that will destroy chemical munitions used during World War I.

The two-phase process will result in the company delivering a new transportable system that can process five to 10 munitions each day with patented container accessing technology, reports. The process should last around 1.5 years and will include design and testing phases coordinated with the French government.

Over 66 million chemical rounds were fired by German, French and English forces in World War I. Twenty percent to 25 percent of those munitions did not detonate and remained buried in the fields where they fell. These munitions have been collected from all over France during the past 95 years, reports. Farmers continue to recover these munitions, which may contain phosgene, mustard agent and other chemicals, during planting seasons. While the shells are carefully transported and stored in secure depots, many of the old shells have deteriorated and pose explosive and leakage hazards.

The devices - three transportable modules - will extract the chemical agents from the shells and either chemically neutralize them or stabilize them for disposal at commercial waste management facilities. The system will be stationed in northeast France at a military reservation but can be transported and used in other areas.

“We feel very honored at our selection to spearhead this process,” IES president Jeff Gold said, according to “Adapting our existing processing technologies to handle these weapons allows us to design and deploy the equipment in a very cost-effective and timely manner.”