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The Newport Chemical Depot, previously known as the Wabash River Ordnance Works and the Newport Army Ammunition Plant, was a bulk chemical storage and destruction facility in west central Indiana, thirty miles north of Terre Haute operated by the United States Army. The site was used as an RDX, TNT and heavy water production site and also served as the entire production site for VX in the US. The total area of the depot is 7,098 acres (28.72 km2). All VX nerve agent at the site was neutralized by August 8, 2008.[1][2] It was the third of the Army's nine chemical depots to completely destroy its stockpile.


Wabash River Ordnance Works

Newport was originally founded during World War II to produce RDX, a conventional explosive. The site is 6,990 acres (28.3 km2) near the Wabash River. It was built during 1942-1943 by the E I Dupont de Nemours & Co. It was originally called the Wabash River Ordnance Works. The site was selected for the availability of labor, its proximity to a railroad line, electric power and water, its isolated location. Furthermore, the location had to be more than 200 miles (320 km) away from attack.[3]

Given the immediate need for RDX, the plant was designed to copy the existing Woolwich method. Consequently[Clarification needed], the plant had less than 1/5 the production of the later Holston Ordnance Works that was based on the improved Bachmann process.[4]

The government acquired 21,986 acres (88.97 km2) for the plant from 62 landowners. It was mostly farmland, but there were 66 clusters of buildings, six cemeteries, and one church. The cemeteries, one apparently dating to 1810, were still maintained as of 1998. Construction started Jan 12, 1942, and production started July 20, 1942.[5]

The plant was mothballed in 1946, but its RDX production was reactivated in 1951 for the Korean War.

Heavy water plant

In 1943-1944, the Newport Army Ammunition Plant added a heavy water plant.[6] During the 1950s, it was used to produce heavy water for the U.S. nuclear weapons program.

Production and stockpiling of Chemical weapons

In 1959, the Army built a VX facility at the site.[7] The facility was known as the Newport Army Chemical Plant. In 1964, the Wabash River Ordnance Works and the Newport Army Chemical Plant were combined and renamed the Newport Army Ammunition Plant.[8]

Beginning in 1961, Newport became a site for chemical weapons manufacturing, producing the entire U.S. stockpile of VX nerve agent. It was next used to store and gradually neutralize the remaining 1,269 short tons (1,151 metric tons) which were present when the U.S. chemical weapons program was stopped and transportation forbidden. The stored VX amounted to 4.1% of the U.S. stockpile of chemical weapons in 1997 when the time the Chemical Weapons Convention came into effect.

Chemical weapons disposal

The U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency designed the Newport Chemical Agent Disposal Facility (NECDF) for the sole purpose of destroying the chemical agent stored at the Newport Chemical Depot. Construction of the NECDF was completed in June 2003. The Army began agent destruction operations in May 2005 and completed operations in August 2008. NECDF’s permit was officially closed in January 2010. Destruction was performed on behalf of the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency by Parsons Infrastructure & Technology Inc and more than 500 civilian employees worked at the facility. The site has been the largest employer in Vermillion County since 1941,[9] having employed 1,000 workers.[10]


The Army employed neutralization for the destruction of the chemical agent. The agent was neutralized in steel reactors by thoroughly mixing it with heated sodium hydroxide and water. Control room operators directed and monitored the entire process remotely, using a state-of-the-art control system. Once agent neutralization was verified at the on-site laboratory, the caustic wastewater was placed into on-site intermodal storage containers awaiting transport for final treatment to Veolia Environmental Services in Port Arthur, Texas.[11] This process is a different method than incineration which has been the primary manner of chemical agent destruction at other installations.


The start of operations was delayed several years due to problems in the arrangements of the disposal of the wastewater (which contains trace - < 20ppm - amounts of VX and 4 byproducts) which at the start of destruction had not been completely solved. Since two companies (Permafix and DuPont) did not accept the wastewater for treatment, it was stored on-site until the Army found another option. Waste was eventually shipped to Port Arthur, Texas where it was processed and incinerated by the company Veolia Environmental Services. A lawsuit delayed the implementation of the shipments but it was dismissed by a federal judge.[12] The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons certified that the stockpile was 100 percent destroyed in September 2009.[13]


A few incidents have occurred during the destruction process including a 30-gallon spill of VX during processing on June 10, 2005.[14] Further incidents involved spills of the hydrolysate end product.[15] None of these incidents resulted in any injuries.

Base closure

The Army held a Deactivation Ceremony in June 2010 signifying that all activities required for closure of the NECD had been successfully completed. In preparation for closure, the Newport Chemical Depot Reuse Authority (NECDRA) was created to complete a reuse master plan for the NECD. NECDRA and its consultant team worked with the local community to create a plan and implementation strategy for the conversion of the depot to civilian use.[16]

Timeline of VX at Newport

  • 1962-68: VX produced at Newport
  • 1969: President Richard Nixon issues a unilateral decree halting production and transport of chemical weapons, stranding the last two batches of VX at Newport
  • 1999: contract for disposal of VX awarded.
  • 2001: Company D, 1st Battalion, 502d Infantry, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) is assigned to secure Newport shortly after the 9/11 attacks.
  • 2001, October: 1/148 Inf Ohio Army National Guard relieves the 101st Airborne
  • 2005, May 5: destruction of VX begins
  • 2005, October: 25 short tons (23 t) destroyed, less than 2.5% of stockpile [1]
  • 2006, April: 180 short tons (163 t) destroyed, 14% of stockpile
  • 2006, July: 274 short tons (249 t) destroyed, 22% of stockpile
  • 2007, January: 470 short tons (426 t) destroyed, 37% of stockpile [2]
  • 2007, February: 520 short tons (472 t) destroyed, 41% of stockpile [3]
  • 2007, September: 834 short tons (757 t) destroyed, 65% of stockpile [4]
  • 2007, December: 940 short tons (853 t) destroyed, 74% of stockpile
  • 2008, May: 1,154 short tons (1,047 t) destroyed, 91% of stockpile [5]
  • 2008, August: 1,269 short tons (1,151 t) destroyed, 100% of stockpile [6]
  • 2009, September: Chemical Weapons Convention treaty inspectors verify 100% destruction
  • 2010, January: NECDF RCRA permit closed
  • 2010, June: Deactivation Ceremony to close the Newport Chemical Depot (NECD)

See also



External links

Coordinates: 39°51′2.36″N 87°26′16.94″W / 39.8506556°N 87.4380389°W / 39.8506556; -87.4380389

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