HERMISTON - A Multnomah County Circuit Court shot down another challenge regarding the safety of the Umatilla Chemical Depot's incinerator plant earlier this week.

Judge Michael Marcus ruled in favor of a March 1999 "clarifying order" that said the Environmental Quality Commission believed incineration is the safest way to destroy the 3,717 tons of chemical weapons at the depot.

His ruling affirms a 1997 finding by the EQC that said incineration was "the best available technology" for such disposal, even without certain filters that are being installed. The EQC oversees the state Department of Environmental Quality

The clarifying order resulted from litigation by anti-incineration groups. In December 1998, Marcus asked the commission to clarify the role that the carbon filters played in the EQC's 1997 finding that incineration was the "best available technology" for the disposal of the chemical weapons at the depot just west of Hermiston.

In June 1999, Marcus accepted the clarification, but anti-incineration groups like GASP challenged the ruling. After further review and oral arguments, the court approved the clarifying statement heard in May of this year. Marcus finally dismissed the challenge "with prejudice," meaning GASP can't file the same challenge again in Circuit Court.

Sue Oliver at the DEQ said the petitioners are already working on an appeal of the June 1999 ruling. No court date has been set, but the case will be heard in the state Court of Appeals.

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