A company working for the Umatilla Chemical Agent Disposal Facility paid the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality $20,000 as a penalty for violating a hazardous waste permit last April.
Washington Demilitarization Company reported its mistake to DEQ, said Steve Potts, a senior compliance inspector with DEQ in Hermiston. WDC is the contractor the Army hires to operate the disposal facility at the depot.
The incident happened April 19, 2008. People working on maintenance found high levels of moisture in the flue gas stream, a DEQ news release said. The moisture affects the reliability of the monitoring equipment in the emissions stack. If monitoring equipment is compromised, the company is supposed to stop the incineration system.
This didn't happen, but only for a little more than two hours, Potts said.
WDC was processing used decontamination solution through the liquid incinerator and secondary waste through the parts furnace, he said. The depot uses the solution to decontaminate suits and equipment. When personnel wash off, workers put into a tank and when the tank is full, they put it through the incinerator.
Though the depot was processing VX 155 mm projectiles at the time, the chemical agent wasn't what was being processed in the incinerator with the compromised monitoring equipment, Potts said.
Potts emphasized this is a very complex facility with backup equipment. In this particular situation, there were three monitoring units and the moisture compromised all three at the same time. He called it "very, very rare."