Umatilla Chemical Agent Disposal Facility Slated for Demolition - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Umatilla Chemical Agent Disposal Facility Slated for Demolition

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UMATILLA COUNTY, Oregon - At one time the Umatilla Chemical Depot required fingerprint security access and all workers on site carried gas masks. If you pulled out a camera, heavily armed guards would have you on the ground in seconds. 

These days security is a bit more lax and for the very first time they let us take our cameras inside for a look.

"Rockets, projectiles, bombs, spray tanks," Closure Decommissioning Manager Lance Pappas described some of the weapons the disposal facility dealt with.

The Depot has been around since the 1940's. 1,000 igloos stored weapons for the military, most of which were considered conventional. However, after the Gulf War, Oregon became one of seven places in the U.S. to house more dangerous weapons. 

"Behind us is what we call the K Block. That's the storage area where all the chemical munitions were kept until they moved here to the processing plant," said Protocol Manager Hal McCune.

220,000 munitions containing the highly toxic agents GB and VX were destroyed at the disposal facility, starting in 2004. Almost 4,000 tons of mustard, a blistering agent, were also incinerated. 

"You'll see a lot of activity around here right now. They're doing a lot of the mechanical and electrical isolation so we can start that work," Pappas said.

"End of an era. It's kind of bittersweet. I mean it's great to say we've accomplished the mission, we've destroyed the munitions, they're gone and that's good for Oregon, good for the nation but it's sad to see people leave we've worked with for years," McCune said.

At the height of the processing, 830 workers bustled about the campus. Several reductions have left the current staff at 270 people. Next month, another 100 will be let go.

Demolition of the processing facility is set to begin in mid-August and the area should be leveled by March of 2014.

 

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