Army Recycles Over Six Million Pounds of Steel Containers That Held Chemical Weapons

When the U.S. Army began to decontaminate the 4,307 ton containers (TC) which stored chemical weapons at its Pine Bluff Arsenal in Arkansas in September 2003, it realized rinsing the TCs wasn’t working. To rinse all of the TCs would require 660,000 gallons of liquid. The U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency (CMA) designed a magnetic induction heating process, which uses an electrically energized copper coil wrapped around the container, to decontaminate up to 10 TCs at the same time. Using the magnetic induction heating process creates less waste, but decontaminates the TCs so completely so that they can be safely recycled. As a result, over 6.5 million pounds of steel has been recycled, enough to build 26 Statues of Liberty. The Pine Bluff Arsenal is one of one of nine Army installations in the U.S. that stored chemical weapons, including GB or VX nerve agents or HD blister agent.

“The decision to decontaminate these legacy containers using magnetic induction heating made the recycling of the containers possible,” said Laurence Gottschalk, CMA’s Project Manager for Non-Stockpile Chemical Materiel. “We greatly reduced the overall safety risk and environmental impact by using this simplified process, adopting a one-and-done method that reduced the amount of secondary waste generated to a minimum. Instead of taking up significant space in a landfill indefinitely, we found a solution that benefits our environment and the community, contributing more than six million pounds of recycled steel.”

The Army is greener in more ways than one

The U.S. Army strives to be green in more ways than one. “The big goal of the Army is now sustainability,” said Manfred Rieck, U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr’s DPW Environmental Division Chief. “The future of the Army is green.”

One way the Army is “greening” itself is by constructing buildings to LEED standards. The Wiesbaden Army Airfield in Germany is building a Mission Command Center (MCC) with Silver LEED certification standards in mind.  The MCC is about 67 percent complete. When completed, it will have over 85 bicycle racks within 200 yards of the main entrance for employees. Rich Gifaldi, a district sustainability engineering manager thinks that when the MCC is complete it will save the Army over $225,000 a year.

The Army is adding solar power to some of its facilities, including the nation’s largest Army Reserve training post, Fort Hunter Ligett in California. A micro solar grid is being constructed at Fort Hunter Ligett which will generate one megawatt (MW) of energy. It will be 40 feet by 1,200 feet, and stretch over an existing parking lot. The micro grid will save $1 million a year in energy costs.

Photo: soldiersmediacenter

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by

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