The Kentucky Chemical Demilitarization Citizens' Advisory Commission and Chemical Destruction Community Advisory Board (CDCAB) met for the last time Wednesday afternoon before June 4, when destruction of the 523 tons of chemical agent being held at the Bluegrass Army Depot will begin.
In the quarterly meeting at Eastern Kentucky University's Perkins Building, members of the board heard updates on the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (BGCAPP) as far as employment and construction goes, as well as an update for the systemization of the main plant.
As of Wednesday, the BGCAPP project employs 1,214 people, and 43 percent of them are local. Throughout the completion of the project, more than $177 million was spent with Kentucky companies, of which $104.6 million has been spent in Madison and surrounding counties.
According to Jeff Brubaker, the BGCAPP site project manager, the number of employees has increased by about 13 positions, and they have met all of the hiring requirements necessary for what they call "limiting conditions for operations."
"This is a fancy way of saying the minimum number of people to safely operate on a per shift basis, so we have successfully achieved and hired to that level," Brubaker said.
To date, the BGCAPP has paid $953 million in local payroll. Brubaker said they are continuing the hiring process at this time, but Brubaker feels that the project will have hired a sufficient number of people to continue forward.
Co-chair of CDCAB and Madison County Judge/Executive Reagan Taylor spoke, requesting that in the future, a report clarify whether workers were on or off site either within the city or county limits, in regards to property taxes to differentiate between the two entities.
"I think it's important for the future of our governments and how we have it done here in Madison County to know what the impact is going to be on each entity (post-demilitarization)," Taylor said.
For those interested, visit https://bechtelparsonsbgcapp.com/Employment.asp and click on each teaming partner logo for openings in those companies. To check for openings at the BGAD, visit www.usajobs.gov and search "Blue Grass Army Depot" in the search bar. (Select "Open to the Public" if you do not have government experience.)
Co-chair Craig Williams gave an economic development update for issues discussed regarding the aftermath of demilitarization process.
With 43 percent of BGCAPP employees, an approximate 13,000 workers, being local residents the Economic Development Working Group (EDWG) has secured a commitment from Bechtel Parsons Bluegrass, the systems contractor for the project, for their assistance in developing a post de-mil plan to focus on economic stability and avoidance of an economic downturn.
EDWG has completed the first of three phases of a study in which the Bechtel Corporation will use to complete the basis for preparing for a long-term plan for economic stability in Madison and surrounding counties.
Currently, the EDWG is gathering and providing county information to the corporation regarding current industries, demographics, educational institutions, workforce information and attributes of the area to help in the design of the post de-mil plan.
Explosive Destruction Technology facilities
The Static Detonation Chamber (SDC) is currently in the soft lockdown portion of the schedule and has been since Feb. 26. This means that the plant is fine-tuning its operating procedures and conducting day-to-day operations as it will be once the destruction process has begun.
The SDC is scheduled to begin destroying the mustard agent-filled weapons on June 4.
Brubaker, along with project manager Ron Hink, updated the board on notable accomplishments in the facility, noting the completion of conventional ammunition proficiency training, completion of systemization demonstration procedure for the SDC/off-gas treatment system and the turnover of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems to operations.
The Blue Grass Main Plant is currently in the process of systemization of the facility with 75.5 percent complete.
Systemization is all the planning, technical work, training and testing activities required to ensure that once destruction operations start, they run safely and smoothly.
The main plant will begin a soft lockdown on April 15 and is scheduled to begin to destroy the nerve agent-filled weapons on Oct.17.
The main plant has started the electrical distribution system systemization demonstration procedure, gathered area air monitoring system initial baselines and have an upcoming surrogate testing of the metal parts treater and its off-gas treatment system.
Nick Stamatakis, the deputy program executive officer of Assemble Chemical Weapons Alternatives, said the beginning of destruction is fast approaching, and safety is the biggest concern moving forward.
"We have reached a stage in which we are going to be getting started with Agent Operation very soon," he said. "Everything that we have been doing collectively as a group is leading to that environment. This is when the real interesting part occurs."
Stamatakis went on to say, "The most important and the most dangerous thing our workers do is disassemble and destroy these chemical weapons. As you know, these were never made to be disassembled, so this is something, in our mind, (that) is paramount. The safety of the worker is the most important thing, and we are getting very close to that point in time when it is going to become a reality."
The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 12, at 1:30 p.m. at the EKU Perkins Building.
Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter @TaylorSixRR.