HERMISTON - There are just three things left that could delay the start of incineration of weapons stored at the Umatilla Chemical Depot, including a worrisome court decision handed down two weeks ago, according to a report to the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission released yesterday.
The report, prepared by the local office of the Department of Environmental Quality, is meant to help the EQC make its decision next week on whether or not to give approval for the U.S. Army to destroy 7.4 million pounds of nerve and blister chemical agents contained in a variety of munitions at the depot.
The Commission will meet specially for the decision in Hermiston Aug. 13.
In its report, the DEQ advised that test results for the operation of a hazardous waste disposal system, the Brine Reduction Area, failed to satisfy the state's permit requirements. It also said it was waiting for the Army to provide a detailed description of the data it will provide for the environmental impact of its first trial burn of chemical agent.
The DEQ advised in the report that it expects both of those issues to be resolved before next week's EQC meeting.
However, it said a July 26 court ruling by the Multnomah County Circuit Court will require a modification to the state's permit for the Umatilla Chemical Agent Disposal Facility, a potentially time-consuming process.
In that court decision, known as "GASP III," the judge requested the Army notify depot employees of their obligation to report concerns regarding the safety of the facility and that it provide assurance that the employees will not be "disadvantaged" in any way by reporting concerns.
The permit modification would add language ensuring compliance with the court order, the DEQ report said.
But, in offering the EQC recommendations for the decisions it might make next week, the DEQ indicated that the permit modification may not be processed in time, and that the EQC could condition startup of incineration on completion of the permit modification.
"Under a conditional commission approval, UMCDF would not be able to begin agent shakedown operations until the conditions were met," the report said.
However, the report also advised that such a decision was not the preference of DEQ personnel.
"The department would prefer that a conditional approval be avoided," the report stated.
The other two options left for the EQC are to take no action, or to approve the start of chemical agent operations. If the Commission approves the start of chemical operations, the first rocket could then be moved from storage to the incinerator in just a matter of days, the report said.