LOUISVILLE, Ky. The Pentagon would have a 10-year deadline to destroy lethal chemical weapons stored in Kentucky, Utah and other states under a bill approved by Congress.
A provision in the defense spending measure would set a 2017 deadline to destroy stockpiles of chemical weapons at Blue Grass Army Depot in central Kentucky near Richmond, as well as at sites in Colorado, Oregon, Utah, Arkansas, Alabama and Indiana.
But the provision should not have an impact on the Deseret Chemical Depot, 22 miles south of Tooele.
"It's not going to affect us," said Alaine Grieser, spokeswoman for the depot. "We plan on being done by 2013 anyway."
The measure won final approval Thursday and was sent to President Bush.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was among those pushing to speed up the disposal work. Without the congressional action, the Pentagon had indicated it would not finish the disposal at the Blue Grass depot before 2023, McConnell said.
"It is vitally important that we keep the pressure on the Department of Defense to get the job done," said McConnell, the Senate's top Republican leader.
Craig Williams, director of the Berea-based watchdog Chemical Weapons Working Group, said Friday he was confident the Pentagon can meet the 2017 disposal deadline.
"Eliminating the risk that is posed to our own citizens by our own weapons of mass destruction has to be a number one priority," Williams said by phone.
Williams said the Pentagon had been "pinching pennies" on the disposal effort. At the same time, he said, the nation is spending billions fighting a war that was based on claims that Iraqis had weapons of mass destruction, which were never found.
"It's our responsibility to spend money on getting rid of the risks that are real around these types of weapons," Williams said. "And we're sitting on a pile of them right here."
A chemical weapons treaty signed by the United States and nearly 180 other countries calls for the chemical weapons to be destroyed by 2012, but the Pentagon said it will not finish by then.
In Utah, 45 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, the Deseret Chemical Depot is destroying gooey mustard agent.
The Blue Grass depot stores 523 tons of nerve and blister agents in rockets and projectiles. The weapons there and at sites in Colorado and Indiana are being destroyed through chemical neutralization, followed by a secondary treatment onsite, Williams said. Weapons stored at the other sites are being destroyed through incineration, he said.
Construction on the disposal facilities is starting later at the Kentucky and Pueblo, Colo., sites than elsewhere in the country, Williams said.At Blue Grass depot, preparations are under way for the disposal and construction of the main demilitarization building will begin early next year, he said.
Contributing: Stephen Speckman, Deseret Morning News