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Deseret Chemical Depot Headed Back to Green Grass and Daisies

Igloos at Deseret Chemical Depot, Utah, provide secure storage for munitions awaiting incineration disposal. (Photo courtesy U.S. Army)
Photo courtesy U.S. Army
Igloos at Deseret Chemical Depot, Utah, provide secure storage for munitions awaiting incineration disposal. (Photo courtesy U.S. Army)

Army officials recognized the work of employees at the Deseret Chemical Depot weapons storage facility in Tooele Thursday for their part in destroying the largest stockpile of chemical weapons in the United States.

Inventory Management Specialist Kent Shields is letting go of the petty frustrations that come with the day-to-day workweek grind and forging ahead: “It’s such a changing event in our lives. I’m old and I’m going to be able to retire but it’s just like a big door shutting and a chapter of a great book ending.”

Operations Engineer Shift Technologist Jamie Mascarenas just signed on to work at Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado. He says he’s going to miss his family and friends. Deseret Chemical Depot means a lot to him because his father spent 39 years working here, starting out in the early 1940s when it first began storing weapons.

“To be part of that coming in here and actually getting rid of all of these chemical munitions. It’s a privilege to work here. The safety environment and the culture here is really great. We had a good thing going and it’s going to end on a safe note.”

The title of the ceremony was “end of operations,” but it’s really the end of the stockpile says Depot Commander Colonel Mark Pomeroy. He says there are plenty of operations left to complete in the next two years before handing over the property to Tooele Army Depot.

“It’s a big day. We’ve had literally five generations working here and so it’s important to take the time to thank all those folks that have worked here for a relatively dangerous mission and really doing something that makes the world a safer place in the end.”

The depot housed about 44% of the nation’s chemical weapons, which were destroyed over the course of 16 years beginning in 1996. It destroyed its last chemical agent in January of this year.

Site Project Manager Ted Ryba says since February 1, the depot has been in decontamination mode. In April 2013, they’ll begin monitoring for contaminant levels and in June they’ll start preparing for final demolition.

“And then about July of '14 is when we expect to be completely done with demolition of the building. All the residual scrap and rubble taken off to a landfill and then pretty much as I’ve been saying, back to green grass and daisies down at the site.”

The depot employs a mix of government and contract workers. Officials say the government workforce is a bit older so a good portion will retire with the project’s completion.