Seventy years to the day after Deseret Chemical Depot opened, the facility was handed over to Tooele Army Depot to become its South Area once again.
On July 11, DCD’s last commander, Col. Mark Pomeroy, handed the keys to TEAD Commander Col. Roger McCreery, expressing thanks to the employees for seven decades of dedication and essentially working themselves out of a job.
Since being designated as a chemical depot in 1943, DCD’s name underwent changes, but its mission remained more or less the same: to store and dispose of chemical munitions.
At its height, DCD had 44 percent of the nation’s stockpile of chemical munitions, some of which were confiscated from Nazi stores during World War II. A total of 1.1 million chemical weapons were destroyed by Jan. 2012, giving workers 18 months for cleanup of disposal facilities, which themselves had to be sterilized to ensure no trace of the chemicals remained.
Although a few workers are still finishing final transitions in the area, the rest of the 400 or so employees had their last day on the job on July 11. About 94 percent had left DCD voluntarily or found other work by the time the depot closed, leaving 20 or so still looking for work.
Pomeroy credited the depot’s human resource department for tirelessly looking for other employment options. Some remaining employees were still looking for leads for their unemployed coworkers after the lights had been turned off and the gates locked.
Because of archaic methods of disposal from earlier in DCD’s history—dumping chemical agent into the ground or simply tossing canisters into piles, a large part of DCD’s mission in its final years was to reclaim its land for future use.
To date, more than half of the 31 Solid Waste Management Units, or SWMUs, had been cleaned and cleared by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste, with the rest in various states of clearance. Many members of DCD’s environmental department had been hired by TEAD to continue cleaning operations.
Safety was also emphasized at DCD in its later years. In the mid-1990s, the reportable injury rate was four or five a month. In June DCD reached a reportable injury rate—meaning injuries that require more than basic first aid for treatment—of zero.
DCD’s remaining facilities are being utilized by TEAD. Its igloos, once used to hold canisters and drums of chemical agent like mustard gas or lewisite, are now holding items like rocket motors for the U.S. Navy. About 500 acres of land are being repurposed by researchers from Utah State University to grow safflower for use in developing a new type of diesel fuel.
At the depot’s closing ceremony, Pomeroy, who retired after the closure, also credited divine assistance in the success of the missions and overall safety of generations of workers.
“I thank God for blessing DCD over these past 70 years. I thank Him for protecting our workforce, for helping so many to find jobs as we close,” he said. “I pray that He will continue to bless those who work here for Tooele Army Depot in years to come.”