AROUND 150 tonnes of chemicals from Syria’s weapons stockpile have been destroyed in Ellesmere Port.
The toxic substances arrived at waste management firm Veolia’s specialist waste facility in Bridges Road three weeks ago, with destruction completed on Wednesday.
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.
Veolia agreed to destroy the “B-Precursors” following an international outcry after President Bashar Assad’s regime was said to use them on its own people.
Although the chemicals were not weapons themselves, they could have been used to manufacture a deadly nerve agent if mixed with “A-Precursors”
The entire stockpile, along with 44 tonnes of hydrochloric acid - also from the Syrian chemical weapons programme - arrived at the Government’s secure military port Marchwood in July before being transported to Ellesmere Port by land.
The materials arrived in both solid and liquid form and were burnt at temperatures reaching 1,150C at the Veolia’s specialist incinerator with just water and carbon dioxide remaining.
Confirming the destruction had been completed, Tobias Ellwood - Minister for the Middle East and North Africa – said: “By destroying these chemicals, the United Kingdom has played its part in the international effort to ensure that Assad’s chemical weapons can never again be used against the Syrian people.
“The removal, and now the destruction in four countries, of the declared Syrian chemical stockpile show what can be achieved when the international community, including Russia, agrees to work together for the common good.
“The challenge remains to bring that same unity to bear in securing a political settlement to end this appalling conflict.”
Mr Ellwood added: “The work at Ellesmere Port is part of international efforts involving destruction facilities in the USA, Finland and Germany and with support from many other states and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
“The destruction by neutralisation of a smaller volume of hydrogen fluoride will take place towards the end of the year. This will complete the UK’s role in destruction activities.”
Confirmation that the Bridges Road site would be responsible for destroying the consignment of B-Precursors 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.