Lawsuit over Army chemical weapons stockpile settled

A lawsuit has been settled by state and Defense Department agencies stemming on how the Army's stockpile of chemical weapons at the Pueblo Chemical Depot in Pueblo, Colorado are monitored.

A spokesman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said that one provision of the settlement calls for the closing of vents on igloos where the weapons are stored by the Army, which would prevent uncontrolled chemical releases into the environment. The settlement also requires that the Army install charcoal filters on the igloos in the near future.

The igloos were previously checked on a quarterly rotation, with state officials saying that was not enough of a safety check. The officials filed suit to require tougher rules.

Since the mid-1980s, items for decontamination have been piling up at the Pueblo Chemical Depot, including items from spill cleanups, old chemical munitions sampling operations and decontamination procedures associated with leaking mustard agent-filled munitions. More than 500 of the 700,000 weapons stored at the facility have been identified as leaking and have been placed in steel cylinders until they can be destroyed.

Three transport trucks removed over two decades of waste from the site this week to be sent to an incineration plant in Port Arthur, Texas. State health department representatives were on hand to witness the removal.

“I am very pleased with the coordinated efforts of the depot, the Chemical Materials Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in getting this waste safely transferred and destroyed," Depot Commander Lt. Col. Rob Wittig told  “This was a fairly significant effort that was only made possible by everyone’s common goal of  protecting  our  local  friends and neighbors, the workers and the environment. We will continue working closely together as we make preparations to safely dispose of the chemical munitions stored at the depot.”

The depot's entire stockpile is scheduled to be destroyed by 2017.