Redstone Arsenal begins chemical weapons cleanup

Alabama's Redstone Arsenal recently initiated a 30-year, $527 million project to clean 17 suspected chemical agent burial sites dating back to World War II.

At the end of the war, chemical weapons were routinely drained, burned or blown up, and then buried in deep trenches at the arsenal site. The munitions include 4.2-inch mortars, 105mm and 155mm shells configured to carry agents such as mustard gas, lewisite, phosgene, white phosphorus or tabun, according to

Jason Watson, the manager of the restoration project, is tasked with cleaning the sites if he can figure out exactly where they are.

"In the 1940s, that was accepted practice," Watson said, reports. "But when the Alabama Department of Environmental Management renewed our permit in 2010, they requested that we investigate and clean those areas up.

"There are over five miles of disposal trenches on the Arsenal, if you put them end to end."

The first phase of the project is scheduled to begin in March. It is primarily investigative in nature and is being funded by the Defense Environmental Restoration Act. The restoration phase is scheduled to begin in November 2014. The restoration is expected to take much longer.

"We only plan to run the sites two at a time because of limited resources. And since there is a potential for chemical exposure, we want to have real-time air monitoring as we're exposing the dirt," Watson said, reports.