Umatilla Depot begins VX artillery projectiles disposal campaign
March 21, 2008
UMATILLA CHEMICAL DEPOT, Hermiston, Ore. - A new chemical weapons disposal campaign began at about 9:30 a.m. this morning when Umatilla Chemical Depot workers began moving VX 155 mm diameter VX-filled artillery projectiles to the Umatilla Chemical Agent Disposal Facility. VX is a lethal nerve agent contained in various munitions in the Umatilla stockpile. This campaign is the tenth of an eventual 13 individual munitions campaigns that the U.S. Army will complete at Umatilla.
"We're pleased to begin yet another chemical munitions disposal campaign," said Mike Strong, the Army's site project manager at Umatilla. "We remain dedicated to completing our mission of eliminating this class of munitions and the threat they pose to our neighbors."
"Our team continues to do a safe and secure job of moving munitions from storage to the disposal plant," said Lt. Col. Bob Stein, depot commander. "We continue to make the safety of the workforce, the environment, and the community our number one priority."
The disposal plant will begin destroying the VX 155 mm projectiles within the next several days.
"We'll start slowly and deliberately, then gradually increase our processing rate once we confirm everything is working properly," said Doug Hamrick, project general manager for Washington Defense Group of the URS Corporation EG&G Division. Washington Defense Group built and operates the disposal plant for the Army. "As always, our focus will be safety and environmental compliance at all times."
The remaining VX disposal campaigns will include destruction of two sizes of artillery projectiles - 155 mm and 8-inch diameter - plus VX-filled land mines. All of the Umatilla stockpile's VX-filled rockets and aircraft-mounted spray tanks have already been destroyed, as have all GB (sarin-filled) munitions.
Since the last VX rocket was destroyed Jan. 23, an eight-week plant "changeover" from rockets to artillery projectiles processing was necessary. Workers converted and tested equipment to process VX artillery projectiles. The projectiles campaign utilizes all three types of furnaces in the plant including the liquid incinerators, deactivation furnace system, and metal parts furnace. Rocket disposal required use of only the LIC and DFS.
The VX 155 mm artillery projectiles disposal campaign is expected to be safely completed by late summer of this year. Disposal of 8-inch diameter artillery projectiles will follow. After that final artillery projectiles campaign, the team will destroy VX-filled land mines. The entire VX agent disposal campaign is planned to be completed by the spring of 2009 if there are no significant incidents or delays. The plant will then change over to process HD mustard blister agent bulk containers. HD mustard agent destruction will be the third and final agent disposal campaign at Umatilla.
Depot storage and disposal workers have safely accomplished several other key milestones during the past several years. The first stockpiled chemical munitions disposal campaign in Oregon began Sept. 7, 2004 when GB rockets were moved from depot storage to the disposal facility. The first rockets were destroyed the next day. Since that time, the following nine munitions disposal campaigns have been successfully and safely completed:
Aca,!Ac 4 GB (sarin-filled) bulk containers or "ton containers" completed Jan. 5, 2006.
Aca,!Ac 27 GB 500-pound bombs completed May 18, 2006.
Aca,!Ac 2,418 GB 750-pound bombs completed June 9, 2006.
Aca,!Ac 91,442 GB rockets and warheads completed Aug. 9, 2006.
Aca,!Ac 3,752 GB 8-inch diameter artillery projectiles completed Jan. 3, 2007.
Aca,!Ac 47,406 GB 155mm diameter artillery projectiles completed July 8, 2007.
Aca,!Ac One VX bulk container or "ton container" completed Nov. 26, 2007.
Aca,!Ac 156 VX aircraft-mounted spray tanks completed Dec. 24, 2007.
Aca,!Ac 14,519 VX rockets and warheads completed Jan. 23, 2008.
When the chemical munitions destruction mission is complete, the disposal plant will be thoroughly cleaned and disassembled according to environmental permits. The Umatilla Chemical Depot is slated for closure under the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Act when its current mission is complete and all closure requirements are met.
Chemical munitions have been stored at the depot since the 1960s. They served as a Cold War deterrent but are now aging, obsolete and prone to leaking. They are kept in highly secure storage "igloos" as they await destruction. Chemical munitions in Oregon and several other states are being destroyed according to the international Chemical Weapons Convention treaty.