AROUND 150 tonnes of chemicals from Syria’s weapons stockpile destined for destruction in Ellesmere Port could arrive in the UK this month after leaving the troubled country.
The toxic substances have left Syria on board MV Ark Futura and are travelling to the UK via Italy, with Foreign Office officials expecting them to arrive within the next fortnight.
They will first arrive at Government’s secure military port near Southampton before being unloaded and brought to the Mersey shore by road.
Waste management firm Veolia will then destroy the chemicals at their specialist waste facility in Bridges Road.
President Bashar Assad had been set an original removal deadline of February 5 but finally gave up the last of his weapons at the end of June.
They have since been separated and transported to a number of sites for destruction.
The remove of Syria’s chemical weapons came following an international outcry after the Assad regime used them to on their own people. They are believed to have killed more than 1,000 people.
A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed the chemicals had left the Middle East and said: “The removal of all declared chemical weapon stocks from Syria is a very substantial achievement by the international community.
“However, as the regime has missed all deadlines set by the OPCW’s Executive Council, the June 30, 2014 deadline set by the UN for destruction of the material cannot be met. Responsibility for this rests with the regime.
“As part of the international efforts, the UK has agreed to destroy 150 tonnes of two industrial-grade chemicals from the Syrian stockpile at a commercial facility.”
The spokesman added: “We do not know precisely when the material will arrive in the UK, though it is likely to be in mid-July.”
Destruction at the Veolia facility is expected to take two weeks and will see the chemicals – known as “B Precursors” – arrive in both solid and liquid form before being burnt at temperatures reaching 1,150C until all that remains is water and carbon dioxide.
Confirmation that the Bridges Road site will be responsible for destroying the consignment came in January, sparking concern from residents who felt that “transporting and destroying such a huge amount of dangerous chemicals” carried a high risk.
More than 1,300 people signed a petition calling on the Ministry of Defence to rethink their decision but Foreign Office officials and Veolia bosses assured that the destruction process would be safe and the chemicals are “no different to those handled at the site every day”.
A spokesman for Veolia told the Globe earlier this year that the chemicals are routinely used in the pharmaceutical industry in the UK and are “similar in nature” to standard industrial materials “safely processed on a regular basis” at Ellesmere Port.
Opened in 1990, the facility treats approximately 100,000 tonnes of hazardous materials every year and employs 73 staff.