HERMISTON - The Umatilla Chemical Agent Disposal Facility reached another milestone recently when it destroyed just more than half of the total number of chemical munitions originally stockpiled at the Umatilla Chemical Depot. Those munitions contained about 24 percent of the original chemical agent tonnage stored at Umatilla.

The disposal facility surpassed the milestone Feb. 11, during the 155-mm diameter GB (sarin) projectile campaign that began Jan. 25. Since starting operations in September 2004, the plant has destroyed more than 111,600 chemical munitions, including 91,442 M55 GB rockets, 2,445 GB bombs, 14,246 8-inch diameter GB projectiles and about 3,500 155-mm GB projectiles.

The next day, the facility raised a new flag to signify it had received federal recognition of its safety and health performance.

The UMCDF recently earned "Star" status in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Voluntary Protection Program. UMCDF is the second chemical weapons demilitarization site in the nation to be awarded VPP Star status, the highest safety honor the federal government bestows. The Army's disposal facility in Anniston, Ala., also earned the honor in 2006.

The VPP promotes effective worksite-based safety and health. Companies in the program are assigned "Merit" or "Star" status after OSHA conducts a comprehensive on-site review. Within the VPP program, management, labor and OSHA establish cooperative relationships at workplaces that have implemented a comprehensive safety and health management system.

Washington Group International operates the disposal facility for the Army. WGI became the 12th company in Oregon to earn the status and was inducted into OSHA's VPP Corporate Pilot Program in 2006, the fifth organization to be selected.

UMCDF is destroying chemical weapons that have been stored at the depot since 1962. All the sarin-filled munitions originally stored at the depot will be destroyed when the UMCDF completes the 155-mm GB projectiles campaign, which is planned for this summer. After that, the facility will prepare for a series of VX nerve agent munitions disposal campaigns, beginning with M55 VX rockets. After destruction of all VX munitions, the depot will dispose of mustard agent stored in bulk containers.

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