HERMISTON - In two months, a study will determine whether non-stockpile weapons can be burned at Umatilla Chemical Depot's incinerator site.
However, this study may not be a significant issue for Oregon. The state permit already allows the destruction non-stockpile materiel at the Umatilla depot. "Materiel" is a term for military weapons and tools.
Sue Oliver, a senior hazardous waste specialist with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, said Friday that the state won't allow the Umatilla depot to become a regional disposal site.
"They (the U.S. Army) are totally forbidden from bringing in additional materiel from off-site to be incinerated here," Oliver said. "We are totally against it."
Non-stockpile weapons include weapons that have been buried and uncovered, and items from former chemical weapons production sites. Much of it was used for training military for the first World War. At that time, coating the items in lime and burning it was the approved disposal method. Such weapons are believed to be buried in 38 states, Washington, D.C., Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Only five ton containers and 73 warheads are included in Oregon's non-stockpile, all of which are stored at the depot. Those ton containers are filled with liquid agent sampled from stockpiled weapons in the 1980s, Oliver said.
The congressionally mandated feasibility study is looking at whether the nation's nine incinerator sites can be used for destroying materiel that's not part of nation's original chemical weapon stockpiles. Only two of those sites - one in Utah and another on an atoll in the Pacific Ocean - are operational. The others are under construction or in the planning stages. The Umatilla depot is scheduled to begin incineration in early 2002.
Greg Mahall, with the Program Manager for Chemical Demilitarization in Maryland, said that the Army was told that the only thing that could be incinerated was stockpiled weapons and tools.
But in a move to explore cost-saving measures, Congress is looking at using the incinerators to destroy these other weapons. A separate program to destroy the non-stockpile items is underway, which would likely mean mobile units traveling to areas to dispose of the materiel, Mahall said. Only sites in Utah and Arkansas are permitted for the emergency disposal of non-stockpile weapons and tools.
The study should be completed in two months. After that, a technical report will look at additional aspects of the proposal and should be completed by the end of November.
Mahall called the idea of transporting non-stockpile items from other states "purely speculative," adding that such transport would have to be negotiated with the states that house the incinerator complexes.
For now, Congress is simply looking at whether destroying non-stockpile weapons in those states is cost-effective and safe, Mahall added.
"We're not even asking the states if we can do this yet," Mahall said. "We're seeing if this is even desirable."
Materiel - Term for military weapons and associated tools.
Non-stockpile - Refers to chemical weapons and tools found after the original stockpile was put in place. This includes buried weapons, binary weapons, former production facilities and more.
Stockpile- The chemical weapons originally stored at a depot. In Oregon, this includes the 3,717 tons of weapons at the Umatilla Chemical Depot.