HERMISTON - Wayne Thomas, who has served as administrator of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality Umatilla Chemical Demilitarization Program since 1997, will be leaving the post in late November.

Thomas said Thursday that he has accepted a job with a private company in Atlanta.

"It's a tough decision to leave this job," Thomas said. "The nature of this project is so important. It's so high profile and technically challenging. I work with a great staff. I've worked here over 10 years and leaving friends and colleagues isn't easy."

Thomas started at DEQ in 1992 as a hydrogeologist for the agency's Eastern Region.

As administrator of the chemical demilitarization program, Thomas has been responsible for ensuring environmental compliance at the U.S. Army's Umatilla Chemical Depot. The DEQ program monitors the Army's efforts to build and operate an incinerator facility that, starting next year, is scheduled to begin destroying chemical weapons stockpiled at the Depot.

"I want to assure the public that safe disposal of the chemical weapons will continue to be of utmost importance after Wayne's departure. DEQ will maintain a strong oversight presence," said DEQ Director Stephanie Hallock.

Thomas will stay on through Nov. 27. DEQ is beginning a national recruitment effort to fill his position.

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