HERMISTON - Umatilla Chemical Depot officials continue to test the heating and ventilation system of its disposal facility and are hesitant to predict when destruction of chemical weapons might begin.

"We're going to test the filters until we are sure they are working properly," said Rick Kelley, spokesman for the Washington Demilitarization Company, the contractor operating the Umatilla Chemical Agent Disposal Facility. "We are dotting all the 'i's and crossing all the 't's."

The depot has completed all state and federal regulatory requirements and has the necessary approval to begin burning the more than 7.4 million pounds of chemical agent it stores in a variety of munitions. But in mid-August, days before the depot was to start incineration operations, officials halted the process to investigate why a trace amount of vapor from industrial chemicals was found in the carbon filters of the system.

Samples of the chemicals were sent to a laboratory for testing and the results raised more questions, Kelley said.

Depot employees are testing all the carbon filters within the ventilation system of the disposal facility, and Kelley said he doesn't know when the task will be finished. The next update on when the depot might begin burning rockets is expected Tuesday.

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