Anniston depot extends munitions destruction deadline

The slow process of destroying old and leaky mustard-armed munitions has caused the Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal Facility in Anniston, Ala., to extend its June completion deadline to September.

Over 450 chemical weapons out of 3,000 mustard munitions in the stockpile have been detonated in the static detonation chamber since September. The tedious process of destroying only a couple at a time, a late mission start-date and the wait for a green light from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management has made progress slow but steady, the Anniston Star reports.

“The static detonation chamber — the small facility that is handling the problematic munitions still in the stockpile — that piece of the operation is honestly going a little bit slower than we initially forecasted,” Mike Abrams, an Army spokesman, said last Wednesday, according to the Anniston Star. “That’s not bad; it’s just that we were very, very optimistic early on. Now that we have operational experience behind us, our optimism has been tempered … with reality.”

Close to 97 percent of the total chemical weapon stockpile stored in Anniston since the 1950s had been destroyed as of May 25. Once the munitions are gone, a consulting firm will conduct an economic study to determine what to do with the $855 million incinerator site and its many highly skilled workers.

“We have, as taxpayers, given $855 million to build and equip this facility and train the staff that is there,” Abrams said, according to the Anniston Star. “On a very, very basic level, that seems like a tremendous investment to make and not get every bit of payback. But from my desk vantage point, I do not know what the decision-makers are looking at.”