RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Dave Hoffman, Transportable Detonation Chamber site manager at Schofield Barracks, is overseeing the disposal of 71 chemical munitions discovered there. Yesterday, while holding a 155 mm training shell, he demonstrated the procedure the munitions will undergo just prior to disposal. In the foreground is an overpack in which the munitions are stored prior to disposal.
Safe disposal planned for munitions
Chemical munitions found at Schofield will be destroyed over the next three weeks
The Army will spend $7 million over the next three weeks to destroy the largest amount of chemical munitions discovered on a military base in the United States.
The weapons contain chloropicrin, a tearing agent, and phosgene, which causes choking and was used during World War I.
They were found while a Schofield Barracks training range was being cleared for use by the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team.
It has taken the Army three weeks to import, erect and test what it calls the Transportable Detonation Chamber, a self-contained system used to destroy conventional and chemical munitions.
Beginning this morning and stretching over the next 15 days, 30 civilian workers, most employed by Edgewood Chemical Biological Center in Maryland, will destroy 71 chemical munitions. One contains chloropicrin; the other 70 contain phosgene.
Dale Ormond, deputy Army assistant secretary, said although the system, which is being leased from Illinois-based construction and engineering company CH2M HILL, has been used in the United Kingdom, "this is the first real operational demonstration in the U.S."
Yesterday David Hoffman, program manager with the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency, gave reporters a tour of the system, which includes:
» A 110-ton blast chamber protected by 1-inch steel armor and a 10-inch-wide wall filled with sand.
» An expansion tank that captures gases from the detonation in the blast chamber.
» An emission-control unit that heats the air, mixes it with gas, forces it through a filter, cools it and filters it again before it is allowed to leave the system.
Fifteen pounds of explosives will be used to destroy the 155 mm projectiles and their contents, Hoffman said, while seven to 10 pounds of explosives will be used for the smaller 4-inch mortars and 75 mm projectiles.
Hoffman said all the metal fragments from the destroyed munitions will be collected and placed in containers, where they will be shipped to Washington state for treatment and disposal.
Only essential personnel, Hoffman said, will be allowed within 900 feet of the chamber, which is housed in a temporary structure erected near Kolekole Pass in a remote area at Schofield Barracks near the training facility known as the "Grenade House" and another used by the Army to familiarize soldiers with the use of their gas masks.
During the briefing, Col. Matthew Margotta, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii, said the chemical munitions were found between June 2004 and September 2006, when a federal judge halted the construction of the training range.
The Schofield Barracks training range is one of 28 projects here and at the Big Island's Pohakuloa Training Area, valued at nearly $700 million, designed to support the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team. Some of the projects, like the training range, were placed on hold by the federal court until the Army completed an environmental impact statement justifying the stationing of the Stryker unit.
List of munitions found
Beginning today, the Army will destroy 71 World War I- and World War II-era chemical munitions that were discovered two years ago at a Schofield Barracks training range. They include:
» One 4-inch mortar filled with chloropicrin.*
» Ten 4-inch mortars filled with phosgene.**
» Thirty-eight 155 mm projectiles filled with phosgene.
» Twenty-two 75 mm projectiles filled with phosgene.
* Chloropicrin is a tearing agent. It is also used in insecticides and fumigants.
** Phosgene, which causes choking, was used during World War I. Phosgene is also used commercially to make plastics and pesticides.
Source: U.S. Army