Madison County

Depot work continues on pilot plant

RICHMOND — Construction continues on the pilot plant that will destroy 523 tons of chemical agent at Blue Grass Army Depot.

Present employment at the construction site is 549 people, up 11 percent since December, said Mark Seely, project manager for Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass, the contractor building the plant.

That includes 206 "craft" people who are various laborers and ironworkers. That number will increase to about 300 by the end of the year, Seely said.

Another 343 workers are "non-manual" employees such as design engineers and others "who don't wear a tool belt," Seely said.

As of Feb. 28, the site has had nearly 5 million job hours and 2,464 days without a lost-time injury — which is 85 percent lower than the industry average.

More than $46 million has been spent with Kentucky companies since the project began in 2006. That's up $2 million since December.

The plant is scheduled to begin destroying weapons in 2018. When that happens it will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and it will employ nearly 1,000 people.

GB nerve agent will be destroyed first, followed by VX nerve agent and finally mustard munitions. However, that schedule could change if the Army decides to destroy mustard shells by exploding them inside steel vessels, a process known as explosive destruction technology.

No decision has been made yet on whether that technology will be used at Blue Grass Army Depot, said Jeff Brubaker, the site project manager.

The scheduled completion of destruction is 2021.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has approved the installation of a traffic light at the plant's entrance gate on Ky. 52, Brubaker said. That should be going up in the coming months and will cut down on the number of "near misses" that have occurred there, he said.