UMATILLA - A bomb threat proved false Monday afternoon after search teams found no explosive devices at the Umatilla Chemical Depot's incinerator site following a threatening phone call.
About 1,000 employees at the construction site were released shortly after 3 p.m. as a safety precaution, but second shift workers were called in. Work resumed as scheduled today.
A Raytheon Demilitarization Corporation employee at the construction site received the telephone call at about 2:30 p.m. The caller said there was "a bomb at the (incinerator construction) site," said Army Spokeswoman Mary Binder.
Raytheon workers trained for such situations made a sweep through the construction site and its buildings, completing their search at about 4:10 p.m. and found no explosive devices, she said.
Off-post emergency operations centers were notified. Appropriate law enforcement agencies and city officials were also notified.
Hermiston City Hall received a phone call before 3 p.m., city officials said. Other cities, such as Irrigon and Umatilla, were notified before 4 p.m.
The FBI will head investigations to find out where the call came from and who made it, Binder said.
Raytheon workers received a briefing about the event this morning before returning to work.
Monday's bomb threat is only the second the depot has ever dealt with, said Jim Hackett, spokesman for the depot. The first was last summer before an emergency training exercise.
"It's very unusual to get bomb threats out here where chemical munitions are being stored," he said.
The incineration plant is being built for the Army to destroy aging chemical weapons stored at the depot.
Binder said for someone to try to plant a bomb at the site, that person would have to bypass the depot's security force, as well as all the construction and administrative staff, who are trained to keep an eye on peculiar behavior.
The workers at the site are also given background checks before being hired and are periodically searched, officials said.
"We use the total awareness tactic," Binder said.
Bob Severson, a Hermiston City Council member, said he received a complaint from one Raytheon worker who said it took more than 30 minutes to get off the depot. Severson said this reinforces the need for more exits from the depot.
The city has tried to get funding to put a bridge across the Umatilla River to offer a direct line from the depot to the local hospital.