Number of mustard agent shells to be destroyed by Army lowered

Army officials announced this week that they expect to destroy 38,000 mustard agent shells at the Pueblo Chemical Depot instead of the 40,000 that was initially estimated.

The latest estimate is the fourth the Army has given over the course of the past year, the Denver Post reports.

Kevin Flamm, who oversees the destruction of chemical weapons at Pueblo and at the Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky, told the Denver Post that officials have had some difficulty coming up with exact numbers. Flamm also said that officials are trying to be transparent in a situation where the numbers are changing.

Flamm said that the 40,000 estimate was a rough one that army officials arrived at by rounding up. He also said the final count could be lower than the new estimate of approximately 38,000. He said, however, that he wanted to make sure environmental reviews are based on the highest likely number.

Approximately 780,000 shells containing 2,600 tons of mustard agent are awaiting destruction at the depot outside Pueblo, the Denver Post reports. The Army plans to destroy most of those shells by taking them apart, draining them and neutralizing the mustard agent with water and bacteria.

The Army also planned, however, to blow up as much as 125,000 of the shells to speed up the process and to show other countries that the U.S. is serious about eliminating chemical weapons. That plan was shelved, though, and the estimate of shells to be exploded was adjusted to 40,000 and then down to 38,000.