The facility that destroyed thousands of tons of chemical weapons found itself on the other end of demolition Thursday.
Bulldozing of the Tooele Chemical Agent Disposal Facility at the former Deseret Chemical Depot in Rush Valley, began amid a flurry of snowflakes, starting with an office once used for international treaty inspectors during TOCDF’s mission.
Demolition of the facility, and some other structures in what is now Tooele Army Depot’s South Area, will take nine months.
Between 1996 and 2012, TOCDF processed 13,500 tons of mustard gas, lewisite, nerve agents and other substances used in more than 1.1 million chemical munitions.
Since the last load of chemical weapons was destroyed in January 2012, DCD, re-absorbed by Tooele Army Depot last July, has been decontaminating and dismantling the equipment used in the process of eliminating the stockpile.
At its height the stockpile amounted to 44 percent of the nation’s total collection of chemical weapons. The equipment has now been treated in line with state environmental regulations, and is deemed safe to be dismantled.
URS, contracted with the Army to operate TOCDF, has shrunk its workforce, in a reflection of the change in mission, from 1,200 employees to about 230 workers. No DCD employees remain.
While leveling TOCDF is one of the last steps in wiping away all traces of DCD and the chemical weapons once housed there, some buildings will remain for use by Tooele Army Depot. Some igloos, once containing mustard gas mortars, now house rocket motors.
Part of DCD’s nearly 20,000 acres are still in various stages of environmental remediation from less-than-safe disposal practices from its early days. It was common and acceptable back then to dump various substances on the ground or leave containers in the open. Environmentalists from DCD were subsequently hired by TEAD to continue remediation work.
An unaffected 500 acres are also in use by Utah State University for growing safflower for developing a new diesel fuel.