“To protect people and the environment by overseeing the
safe destruction of chemical agents at the Umatilla
Chemical Depot as soon as possible.”
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s
Chemical Demilitarization Program, based in Hermiston,
Oregon, provides environmental and human health
oversight of the Umatilla Chemical Agent Disposal
Facility, eight miles west of Hermiston. The facility,
administered by the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency,
is operated under contract by Washington
Demilitarization Company LLC. The facility is in charge
of destroying by incineration the stockpile of chemical
munitions that had been stored at the Army’s nearby
Umatilla Chemical Depot for decades.
Permit and Permittees
DEQ’s provides its oversight through its issuance and
updating of a hazardous waste storage and treatment
facility permit for the disposal facility. The official
permittees for the facility are the Umatilla Chemical
Depot and Washington Demilitarization Company. DEQ’s
role includes conducting periodic inspections of the
facility and analyzing operational reports that the
facility must submit to the state to ensure
environmental compliance. DEQ is responsible for making
sure the facility strictly follows permit conditions
such as proper hazardous waste storage, maintenance and
monitoring, as well as proper equipment maintenance, to
ensure the facility operates in a manner that won’t harm
the public or environment.
In October 2011, the Army completed destruction of the
last chemical munitions materials that had been stored
at the Umatilla Chemical Depot. The Umatilla Chemical
Agent Disposal Facility destroyed nearly 4,000 tons of
chemical agent since it began incinerating the material
in September 2004.
As of Oct. 25, 2011 the Umatilla Chemical Agent
Disposal Facility had completed safe destruction of all
of the following chemical agents:
GB rockets, containing deadly sarin nerve agent.
Destruction completed July 8, 2007.
Sarin nerve agent VX munitions. Destruction completed
Nov. 5, 2008.
HD ton containers (“mustard” or blister agent).
Destruction completed Oct. 25, 2011.
The Umatilla Chemical Agent Disposal Facility is
one of eight facilities in the United States and one in
Johnston Atoll in the Pacific Ocean in charge of
destroying the stockpile of chemical munitions that the
Army has accumulated over the decades. It is the sixth
to complete its work. So far, facilities in Newport,
Indiana; Pine Bluff, Arkansas; Anniston, Alabama;
Johnston Atoll; and Aberdeen, Maryland, have completed
their destruction of chemical agents. Facilities in
Tooele, Utah; Blue Grass, Kentucky; and Pueblo, Colorado
continue efforts to safely destroy their local
stockpiles of chemical weapons. Complete destruction of
chemical agent stockpiles in the United States is now
expected by 2023.
While destruction of chemical agents in Oregon has
concluded, DEQ’s Chemical Demilitarization Program will
continue overseeing the Umatilla Chemical
Depot/Washington Demilitarization Company hazardous
waste storage and treatment facility permit as the
facility is closed down.
The permit, which was most recently renewed Sept.
20, 2011 and expires Sept. 20, 2021, includes a formal
facility closure plan. The facility must follow detailed
procedures to properly dismantle and dispose of
equipment used in the incineration of chemical agent.
The Umatilla Chemical Depot/Washington Demilitarization
Company’s is currently seeking a permit modification to
allow disposal of secondary waste from the weapons
destruction operations to be shipped to an authorized
hazardous waste landfill.
The Umatilla Chemical Depot
began receiving and storing chemicals munitions between
1962 and 1969. The chemical warfare agents VX and GB
(nerve agents) and HD (blister or “mustard” agent) were
stored as liquid in various types of munitions and
containers, including rockets, bombs, projectiles,
mines, bulk containers and aerial spray tanks. Chemical
weapons stored at the Depot represented about 12 percent
of the nation’s original chemical weapons stockpile.
In 1985 Congress
directed the Army to destroy the entire U.S. chemical
agent stockpile, as directed by the international
Chemical Weapons Convention treaty. The treaty
originally required signatory countries to completely
destroy all chemical agent stockpiles by the year 2007.
Since that time, countries have been given an extension
to 2012. Congress has mandated that destruction of all
chemical agent stockpiles in the U.S. be complete by
Dec. 31, 2017. The U.S. Department of Defense is working
with Congress to accelerate the program to come as close
to meeting the 2017 deadline as possible.
In February 1997,
the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission, DEQ’s
governing body, issued environmental permits to the Army
to construct, operate and ultimately close down the
Umatilla Chemical Agent Disposal Facility. Prior to the
commission’s approval of those permits, DEQ in 1996
conducted a Pre-Trial Burn Human Health and Ecological
Risk Assessment. In 2010, DEQ completed a Final
Post-Trial Burn Human Health and Ecological Risk
Assessment, using site-specific emission data from the
facility. The assessment showed that the facility’s
incineration of the chemical agent was being handled
safely and effectively.