On the high plains at this city’s eastern edge, fields of concrete bunkers arrayed like a vast cemetery hold most of the remaining stockpile of the nation’s chemical weapons. The earth-covered “igloos” with their reinforced concrete headwalls contain 2,611 tons of mustard agent in mortar rounds and artillery shells.
Slated for destruction since at least 1985, the munitions are old, leaky and expensive to protect.
The process of dismantling them is 29 years behind schedule and $33.8 billion over budget, according to Defense Department documents and historians.
Half a world away, the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is seeking to take apart Syria’s estimated 1,000-ton stash of poison agent in just eight months. The group was recently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work, which proceeds amid a raging civil war.
The depot here in Pueblo shows how difficult the job can be, even absent the chaos of war. Stymied by technical barriers, concerned neighbors and increasingly complex environmental regulations, the U.S. effort to get rid of its own weapons of mass destruction has consistently fallen short of projections.