Treatment to Remove High-Strength Contaminants in Wastewater Generated in the Destruction of VX Nerve Agent: Development of Technology and Demonstration of Environmental Quality

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Shortly after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. government accelerated efforts on eliminating potential terrorist threats across the U.S. – including those posed by storage of chemical warfare agents and weapons. As part of that effort, the U.S. Army is destroying its VX–nerve agent stockpile in Newport, Indiana. The Army has determined that elimination of this stockpile can be achieved best by on-site destruction of the VX-nerve agent in Indiana. The plan for the wastewater resulting from the destruction process – called Newport Caustic Hydrolysate (NCH) – would be to provide off-site treatment using an existing permitted commercial treatment facility. The NCH contains high concentrations of ethyl methyl phosphonate (EMPA), methyl phosphonate (MPA) and diisopropylaminoethylthiolate (“thiolamine”). At the Army’s request, DuPont conducted studies that demonstrated that the NCH wastewater could be handled safely and in an environmentally sound manner in its Secure Environmental Treatment (SET) facility in Deepwater, New Jersey. However, concerns were raised that the phosphonate compounds were not substantially removed in the treatment process.

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