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Newport Chemical Depot

The Newport Chemical Depot, previously known as the Wabash River Ordnance Works and the Newport Army Ammunition Plant, was a 6,990-acre (28.3 km2) bulk chemical storage and destruction facility that was operated by the United States Army. It is located near Newport, in west central Indiana, thirty-two miles north of Terre Haute. The site was used as a production site for the solid explosives trinitrotoluene[not verified in body] and RDX, as well as for heavy water. It also served as the production site for all of the U.S. military's nerve agent VX, when it was in use. All VX nerve agent at the site was neutralized by August 8, 2008. It was the third of the Army's nine chemical depots to completely destroy its stockpile.[not verified in body]


Wabash River Ordnance WorksEdit

Newport was founded during World War II to produce the military high explosive RDX.[1] The site is 6,990 acres (28.3 km2), located in west central Indiana, near the Wabash River, two miles south of Newport, Indiana, and thirty-two miles north of Terre Haute.[2] It was built during 1942–1943 by the E.I. Dupont de Nemours & Co., the original operating contractor of the site, and was originally known as the Wabash River Ordnance Works."[2] The site was selected for the availability of labor, its proximity to a railroad line, electric power and water, and its isolated location; furthermore, the location had to be more than 200 miles (320 km) away from any coastal waters or international borders.[3]

Given the immediate need for RDX, the plant was designed to employ the older Woolwich method for manufacturing the explosive. As a result, the plant manufactured lower amounts of RDX compared to the Holston Ordnance Works, which used the more updated Bachmann process.[2]

The government originally acquired 21,986 acres (88.97 km2) to build the plant. Although most of the land was used for farming, 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.[4]

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

Heavy water plantEdit

In 1943–1944, the Newport Army Ammunition Plant added a heavy water plant as an element of the Manhattan Project's P-9 Project for construction of nuclear weapons.[5][6] During the 1950s, it was used to produce heavy water for the U.S. nuclear weapons program.[citation needed]

Production and stockpiling of chemical weaponsEdit

The Army first built a VX facility at the site in 1959 when it was known as the Newport Chemical Plant.[7] In 1964, the Wabash River Ordnance Works and the Newport Army Chemical Plant were effectively combined and renamed the Newport Army Ammunition Plant.[5]

Beginning in 1961, Newport became a site for chemical weapons manufacturing, producing the entire U.S. stockpile of VX nerve agent at the time.[citation needed] It was also used to store and eventually neutralize 1,269 short tons (1,151 metric tons) of the agent when the U.S. chemical weapons program was shut down.[citation needed] The stored VX amounted to 4.1%[according to whom?] of the U.S. stockpile of chemical weapons in 1997 when the Chemical Weapons Convention came into effect.[citation needed]

Chemical weapons disposalEdit

Two workers in demilitarization protective ensemble (DPE) performed maintenance work in an area of the Newport Chemical Agent Disposal Facility (NECDF) where chemical agent may have been present.
A Newport disposal site employee helped guide a stacker operator as he maneuvered an intermodal (ISO) container filled with hydrolysate.
A convoy travels from the storage igloos to the Newport Chemical Agent Disposal Facility, where the VX was neutralized.

The U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency designed the Newport Chemical Agent Disposal Facility (NECDF) for the sole purpose of destroying the VX chemical agent stored at the Newport Chemical Depot.[verification needed] Construction of the NECDF was completed in June 2003. The Army began VX agent destruction operations in May 2005, and completed operations in August 2008.[verification needed] 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. NECDF’s permit was officially closed in January 2010. The site was the largest employer in Vermillion County between 1941 and it closing,[verification needed][8] having employed 1,000 workers at its peak.[verification needed][5]


The Army employed neutralization for the destruction of the VX chemical agent.[verification needed][9][non-primary source needed] 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.[9] 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 was anticipated to contains trace amounts of VX and 4 byproducts (less than 20 parts per million), problems that had not been completely solved at the start of destruction. Permafix[who?] and DuPont[who?] did not accept the wastewater for treatment, so it was stored on-site until the Army found another disposal 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 the suit was ultimately dismissed by a federal judge.[10][11] The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons certified that the stockpile was 100 percent destroyed in September 2009.[12][full citation needed]


A few incidents have occurred during the destruction process, including a 30-gallon spill of VX during processing on June 10, 2005.[13][full citation needed] Further incidents involved spills of the hydrolysate end product.[citation needed] None of these incidents resulted in any injuries.[citation needed]

Base closureEdit

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.[14][needs update]

Timeline of VX production, storage, and destructionEdit

The Newport Chemical Depot (NCD) deactivation ceremony, June 17, 2010.
Year Event
1962-1968 The period of VX production at the Newport Chemical Depot (NCD) is across this span of years.[citation needed]
1969 President Richard Nixon unilaterally decrees halt to production and transport of chemical weapons, leaving the final two batches of VX at the NCD.[15]
1999 Parsons Infrastructure & Technology is awarded the contract for the disposal of VX at the NCD.[16]
2001 1st Battalion, 502d Infantry of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) arrives to secure the NCD shortly after the 9/11 attacks.[17] The next month, the 1/148 Inf[who?] of the Ohio Army National Guard relieved the 101st Airborne.[18]
2002-2003 1/194 Field Artillery of the Iowa Army National Guard[who?] arrives to protect the depot.[when?][19]
2003-2004 2/150 Field Artillery of Indiana Army National Guard arrives to protect the depot
2005 On May 5, operations began for the neutralization/destruction of the VX at the depot.[20][full citation needed][16]
2008 On August 8, all operations to neutralize/destroy all VX stored at the depot were completed.[21][22]
2010 On June 17, the depot conducted a deactivation ceremony and announced that it would officially vacate the site on July 18, 2010.[23]

See alsoEdit


  • MMP Staff (August 1984), Historic Properties Report, Newport Army Ammunition Plant, Newport Indiana [report on contract CX-0001-2-0033] (PDF), Washington, DC and Minneapolis, MN: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record, and MacDonald and Mack Partnership (MMP), AD-A175 818, retrieved 24 February 2017


  1. ^ MMP Staff 1984, p. i
  2. ^ a b c MMP Staff 1984, p. 14
  3. ^ MMP Staff 1984, p. 19
  4. ^ MMP Staff 1984, pp. 20f
  5. ^ a b c Kelly, Deb (20 July 2008), "End of VX Neutralization Process Raises Questions About Future For Newport Chemical Depot, Workers", Tribune Star, archived from the original on 1 May 2011, retrieved 10 September 2010
  6. ^ "Morgantown, WV".
  7. ^ MMP Staff 1984, p. 16
  8. ^ "The U.S. Army Chemical Materials Activity (CMA) - Newport, IN". Archived from the original on 2013-12-07. Retrieved 2014-02-13.[full citation needed]
  9. ^ a b Irvine, R. L.; Haraburda, S. S.; Galbis-Reig, C. S. (2004). "Combining SBR Systems for Chemical and Biological Treatment: the Destruction of the Nerve Agent VX". Water Science and Technology. 50 (10): 11–18. doi:10.2166/wst.2004.0598. PMID 15656290.[non-primary source needed]
  10. ^ BE Staff (25 September 2008). "Judge Sides With Army in Chemical Waste Shipments to Port Arthur's Veolia". Beaumont Enterprise (BE). Hearst Newspapers. Associated Press. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
  11. ^ Ball, David (25 September 2008). "Court dismisses VX lawsuit against Veolia". Port Arthur News. Archived from the original on 24 January 2015. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
  12. ^ Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, letter NV/ODG/42490/09.[full citation needed]
  13. ^ "C&EN: Latest News - VX Spill At Disposal Facility". Retrieved 2014-02-13.[full citation needed]
  14. ^ Colombo, Hayleigh (23 March 2014). "How an Indiana Town Ridded Itself of Deadly VX Nerve Gas". Indianapolis, IN: Indianapolis Star. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
  15. ^ Mauroni, Albert J. (2000). The America's Struggle with Chemical-Biological Warfare. Praeger Security International [Series]. Westport, CT: ABC-CLIO/Greenwood. pp. 49–50. ISBN 978-0275967567. Retrieved February 24, 2017.
  16. ^ a b DID Staff (20 October 2008). "Nerve Gas Stockpile Destruction at NECD in Newport, IN". Defense Industry Daily. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
  17. ^ Haraburda, Scott S. (9 September 2011). "Colonel Scott Haraburda: 9/11 Attacks Had A Tremendous Impact On My Life" (PDF). Spencer Evening World. pp. 1, 7. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
  18. ^ Ohio Adjutant General Staff (2002). "2001-2002 Annual Report [17 pages]" (PDF). State of Ohio. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
  19. ^ Shea, Bill (31 July 2010). "Largest Deployment of Iowa Army National Guard Since WW II Begins". The Messenger. Archived from the original on 2015-01-22. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
  20. ^ Brackett, Elizabeth (26 May 2005). "Cache of Nerve Gas Destroyed in Indiana Town". PBS News Hour.[full citation needed]
  21. ^ Kelly, Deb (12 August 2008). "Last of VX Nerve Agent Eliminated at Newport". Tribune Star. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
  22. ^ Pike, John (13 February 2014). "Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD): Newport Chemical Depot (NECD), Newport, Indiana". Retrieved February 24, 2017.
  23. ^ Greninger, Howard (17 June 2010). "Newport Chemical Depot Conducts Deactivation Ceremony". Tribune Star. Retrieved 21 January 2015.

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