Destruction of chemical weapons a huge success

It is unfortunate 650 jobs in the Hermiston area will be lost, but the dangerous weapons were destroyed safely. That's good for the nation and the world.


The destruction of dangerous chemical weapons at the Umatilla Chemical Depot has been a huge economic boon to Eastern Oregon.

Millions of dollars of federal money was infused into the economies of Hermiston, Umatilla and nearby communities as well-paid workers at the Depot safely destroyed 3,500 tons of chemical weapons, including mustard gas, that had been stored there. The incineration plan was completed in 2001 and the destruction of weapons began in 2004.

But the last of the weapons will be destroyed by the end of this year, meaning layoffs and an annual loss of $50 million circulating in that part of Eastern Oregon.

It's going to hit hard as it comes in the midst of an already down economy. It is estimated 650 jobs will be lost.

It is unfortunate for Hermiston and all of Eastern Oregon and Southeastern Washington this windfall is ending.

However, everyone knew it would happen. The jobs have made life better for a lot of folks in the region over the last decade.

The nation -- and the world -- benefited greatly. The incineration of these chemical weapons allowed the United States to fulfill its obligations under an international arms reduction treaty.

In addition, and more importantly, the elimination of those chemicals that had been stored in underground igloos at the Depot will make this region -- including the Walla Walla Valley -- safer.

These types of cleanup projects are always temporary, even when they stretch out for decades and decades like the nuclear cleanup taking place at Hanford.

It's generally very lucrative while it lasts. The Hanford cleanup project has made the Tri-Cities one of the few areas of Washington state where housing prices have remained relatively stable while maintaining a strong local economy.

Sure, there have been ups and downs -- booms and busts -- over the years but those communities have adjusted well.

Hermiston, too, will adjust. Changes are ahead for that part of Eastern Oregon, but the folks there have been preparing for this day for years.

Kim Puzey, manager of the Port of Umatilla, said the area is resilient and has been growing.

"I certainly think communities like this can absorb the loss and do it very well," Puzey said.

The destruction of chemical weapons has ultimately been successful. The incineration was efficient and safe.


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