By Alex DeMetrick

EDGEWOOD, Md. (WJZ) — Neutralizing chemical weapons. It’s something experts specialize in at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Harford County.

Alex DeMetrick reports now those same experts are about to take the poison out of Syria’s chemical weapons.

After unleashing chemical weapons against his own people, Syria’s leader faced a decision–bombardment by other countries or surrender his toxic arsenal. The Assad regime chose surrender. Getting rid of the poison fell to the U.S.

“We have to destroy it down to 99.9 percent efficiency, and that means it can’t be used for a chemical warfare material anywhere,” said Joe Wienand, director of the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center.

Not the explosive munitions, but the stored chemicals they’re loaded with.

Chemical warfare experts at the Edgewood area of Aberdeen Proving Grounds built the machinery to do it in just six months. Drawing on decades of experience, the challenge was to make it smaller and use it somewhere it has never been tried before.

“Putting it on a ship introduces six new degrees of movement. Like I said, up, down, forward, backwards, side-to-side,” said Jeff Harris, project manager.

A roll-on-roll-off ship was chosen for stability and space.

Since no other country wanted the chemicals on their soil, 64 experts from Aberdeen will, for the first time, neutralize hundreds of tons of toxic chemicals at sea.

The agent mixes with the decontamination solution in the static mixers. The agent is further neutralized in the mixing tank.

“Literally, we’re using water to hydrolyze the materials,” Harris said.

The hands on deactivation of the chemical weapons will be done by volunteers from Aberdeen. There were plenty who signed up.

“I think it’s because, in large part, it’s an historic mission,” Wienand said.

Jeff Harris is one of the volunteers going.

“To be able to rid the world of this is very gratifying for all involved,” he said.

The experts and technicians from Aberdeen Proving Grounds will spend four months at sea, neutralizing the chemical Syria uses in weapons.

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Alex DeMetrick

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