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EPA Approves Plant to Neutralize Mustard Gas at Aberdeen Army Base

Release Date: 3/3/1999
Contact Information: Ruth Podems, (215) 814-5540

ABERDEEN, Md. - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued a permit to the U.S. Army Proving Ground in Aberdeen to construct a treatment plant to neutralize the chemical warfare agent HD, also known as mustard gas, which has been stockpiled at the site since World War I.  EPA permits are required to treat, store or dispose of hazardous materials.

This will be the first chemical weapons stockpile destruction facility in the country that has been granted an environmental permit for a technology other than incineration. The permit is being issued in coordination with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE).

According to the newly approved process, the mustard gas, which is actually in liquid form, will be drained from ton containers and collected.  The drained mustard gas will be destroyed by neutralizing it with hot water.  The empty containers will then be decontaminated by high pressure spraying with hot water followed by steam drying.

The EPA permit specifies how the Army must safely design, install, operate, and inspect the proposed facility to reduce and control air emissions to the community.  All of these activities will be subject to EPA and MDE oversight.  

The Army is scheduled to begin construction on the treatment plant in the spring of 1999 and it should be completed by 2002. At that time, a 12-month pilot period will begin to test the system with non-toxic materials and train operators.  A nine-month full-scale operational testing phase will follow. Mustard gas destruction is expected to be completed in 2004.

The EPA solicited public input during a comment period last fall and at public meetings held in October and November. No significant input was received during this period.