HERMISTON - People hope there won't be another one.

But with nine bomb threats made in a matter of weeks at the Umatilla Chemical Depot's incinerator site, chances are good there will be more threats.

Rumors abound as to who has caused the work-stopping calls during the last five weeks, anyone from a disgruntled worker to the unlikely notion of someone in the depot administration.

Not far behind the rumors are the questions from the public, who wonder why the perpetrator - or perpetrators - seemingly can't be caught.

Few details of recent bomb threats have been released for fear of hampering an ongoing FBI investigation. However, Sgt. Mike Unsworth of the Portland Police Bureau's explosives disposal unit said catching such callers is harder than the public might think: the calls are anonymous and tracing telephone lines isn't a simple process.

"It's not like on TV," Unsworth said Monday. In addition, at least one threat came via two-way radio.

In metro areas like Portland, bomb threats are a "fairly routine" event, Unsworth said. Schools in Hermiston and Umatilla have said they receive at least one a year. Unsworth said that less than 5 percent of the bomb threats actually involve explosives. But each one must be treated as if it does.

Another problem is the copycat syndrome, when the publicity of the event encourages other people to make similar calls. While most bomb threats are ignored by the media, the depot's string of threats has become big news simply because of the chemical weapons stored there.

Terry Templeman, a psychologist in Pendleton, said some people get a thrill out of making bomb threats or similar outrageous conduct when they can receive publicity with perceived impunity.

"It's almost akin to a person who makes obscene phone calls or the person who tries to call famous people," Templeman said. However, the psychologist wouldn't rule out another prominent rumor: The caller may simply be a disgruntled employee or former employee.

For a current employee to make the threats seems counterproductive: the craft workers aren't paid for the hours they spend at home. Some workers, speaking anonymously, said the lost hours are hitting them hard in the checkbook.

The threats haven't avoided any weekdays, but they have gravitated toward Wednesdays. The last four weeks have seen the calls on Wednesday, which some workers said is the lynch pin day of the work week.

Chris Early, the protocol officer with Raytheon Demilitarization Co., called it "pure speculation" to connect the weekly threats with pay day, which is each Thursday. Raytheon is the contractor that is building the $604 million incinerator complex to destroy the depot's massive stock of chemical weapons - about 12 percent of the national stockpile.

Others have speculated that the threats may be coming from eco-terrorists or anti-incineration groups. Craig Williams, spokesman for Chemical Weapons Working Group, a national anti-incineration group, said the threats make "absolutely no sense from anybody's perspective."

"I don't think it's a productive, appropriate - never mind legal thing - to do," he said. "It's nuts."

The legality of the threats is another issue. Making bomb threats is a felony that carries a possible penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a hefty fine.

Though a person was arrested about a month ago in connection with one of the bomb threats, he was released days later due to lack of evidence.

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