More workers laid off at Umatilla Chemical Depot

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Demolition of the incineration plant at the former Umatilla Chemical Depot has been completed, leading to the layoff of more workers.

Sixty workers lost their jobs Thursday, leaving about 90 employees remaining, according to Hal McCune, protocol manager for the Umatilla Chemical Agent Disposal Facility.

The plant employed about 830 workers when it was being used to incinerate chemical weapons that had been stored at the depot. Many commuted from the Tri-City area.

In November the emission stacks were pulled to the ground, completing demolition of the main facility at the plant.

However, work continued to excavate several feet down and remove the main facility’s foundation and to remove some ancillary tanks for brine solution and piping adjacent to the Munitions Demilitarization Building.

That work was finished to meet a “demolition complete” milestone Feb. 7.

Work continues to meet Oregon state requirements to collect soil samples in 1,132 locations where the plant stood and along its perimeter. All but 117 samples have been collected, and all samples tested to date have been clean, McCune said.

Much of what remains to be done is writing reports to close out the project.

The jobs cut Thursday included 48 support positions in departments such as engineering, accounting, information technology and medical that had supported both operations of the plant and its closure. The remainder were positions associated with closing the plant.

All work is expected to be completed by the end of this year. Two more rounds of layoffs are planned, one in July and one in October, McCune said.

A maintenance building and office and storage space that supported the incineration plant have not been demolished and will be made available to local governments or private businesses.

During the seven years the plant operated, it processed 260,604 munitions and about 3,720 tons of chemical agent, including nerve gas.

The last of the depot’s stockpile was destroyed about six months before the deadline in the Chemical Weapons Convention international treaty.

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