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Press Releases 2012

Ambassador Warlick Visits Former Munitions Depot at Chelopechene to Mark Successful Conclusion of U.S.-Funded Clean-Up

July 25, 2012
Ambassador Warlick in Chelopechene (Photo: U.S. Embassy)

Ambassador Warlick in Chelopechene

U.S. Ambassador James Warlick, alongside Deputy Minister of Defense Valentin Radev, announced together the successful conclusion of a massive $3.18 million effort funded by the United States to clean up unexploded ordnance (UXO) that infested the grounds and nearby water areas for several kilometers around the Chelopechene munitions depot following a 2008 explosion.  The land the U.S. helped to clean and the waters of the adjoining nature preserve, river, ponds, and reservoir are now restored to their original condition.  Ambassador Warlick and Deputy Minister Radev toured the site on July 25, 2012, with the director of the Slovenian non-governmental organization ITF Enhancing Human Security (ITF), Dorijan Marsic, and the president of Sterling International, William Wade, the American company which was sub-contracted to complete the sub surface clearance work.

“Nearly one year ago, we gathered here to commemorate the start of this important project.  I'm very pleased to be here today once again with Deputy Minister Radev to officially end operations.  As you know, our partnership here at Chelopechene began the first day of the explosions.  By the end of that terrible day the Embassy had already contacted Washington to determine how best we could help.  That summer, the U.S. Government spent nearly $300,000 to provide the surface cleanup.  Some of you were here and remember that in some places there were knee-high piles of smoldering, unstable munitions.  This was very dangerous work that took nearly a year to complete,” said Ambassador Warlick.  

Last year, work began to clear 33,000 square meters of land at the epicenter of the explosions to a depth of nearly 1 meter and to clear over 220,000 square meters of nearby waterways.  Over the course of the year, over 130,000 live UXO and over 70 tons of scrap munitions were extracted from the ground.  From the nearby reservoir, river, and ponds, 2,623 kilograms of UXO and dangerous scrap were removed successfully by the Montenegrin-based Regional Center for Underwater Demining, which was also sub-contracted to the ITF with U.S. funding.

“I am very pleased to report that over the past few years the Embassy has been working closely with the Ministry of Defense to prevent another incident like the one that occurred at Chelopechene from ever happening again.  I applaud the Government of Bulgaria for its commitment to reducing its excess munitions and to properly storing them.  We look forward to our future cooperation on this important issue,” added Ambassador Warlick.

The United States is a leading donor for conventional weapons destruction around the world, having provided nearly 2 billion since 1993 to destroy military arms and munitions, help clean up munitions depots that have blown up, clear landmines, provide mine risk education, and render mine survivors assistance in more than 90 countries.  To learn more visit www.state.gov/t/pm/wra.

For more information please contact the U.S. Embassy Sofia Press Office at 02 937-5183 or sofia@usembassy.bg.