The Umatilla Chemical Depot in Oregon has had yet another leak of a chemical mustard agent.
You should need no reminder that it was Saddam Hussein’s regime that used a mustard agent against the Kurds in Iraq. The United States, who, at the time- 1988, were allies of Iraq in their war with Iran, turned a blind eye to the atrocity and said the images could not be verified to be the responsibility of Iraq. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halabja_poison_gas_attack. Could it have been none other than Donald Rumsfeld as Reagan’s envoy who turned a blind eye? For more on. “Halabja, the massacre the West tried to ignore.” http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/iraq/article6991512.ece January 18, 2010.
The Chemical Demilitarization Program’s mission is defined, “To protect people and the environment by overseeing the safe destruction of the chemical agents at the Umatilla Chemical Depot as soon as possible.” http://www.deq.state.or.us/Umatilla/cdp.htm “As soon as possible?” Safe? For more than ten years there have been admitted exposures, leaks, and spills at Umatilla.
The Umatilla Chemical Agent Disposal Facility (UMCDF) is headed by the U.S. Army Program Manager for Chemical Demilitarization (PMCD) and is operated under contract by Washington (formerly Raytheon) Demilitarization Company. Washington is responsible for the construction and operation of the UMCDF. Along with UMCD, both PMCD and Washington Demilitarization Company (WDC) are Permittees named in the UMCDF Hazardous Waste Permit. http://www.deq.state.or.us/Umatilla/cdp.htm
The chemical warfare agents VX and GB (nerve agents) and HD (blister, or “mustard” agent) are stored as liquid in various types of munitions and containers, including rockets, bombs, projectiles, mines, bulk containers, and aerial spray tanks. The chemical weapons stored at the UMCD represent approximately 12% of the United States’ original chemical weapons stockpile.
Located near Hermiston, Oregon, “The facility had stopped work in late October because vats of mustard agent were boiling over. Now depot officials say they think they’ve fixed that issue.” http://news.opb.org/article/6598-umatilla-chemical-depot-resumes-burning-mustard-agent/
They were wrong. The official press release is at http://www.csepp.net/pressreleases/10Releases/10Jan27_nr%20trace%20of%20mustard%20chemical%20agent%20detected%20today-27Dec2010-1.pdf.
On January 27, 2010, thinking things were in order, via http://www.tri-cityherald.com/yahoonews/story/879396.html another leak of blister agent was discovered. Workers at the Umatilla Chemical Depot yesterday found another mustard agent leak in one of its igloo storage units, the sixth such leak detected at the Oregon facility in three months.
Umatilla generally experiences more leaks in the summer, when containers holding the deadly blister agent tend to thaw. The igloos where the mustard containers are stored are fitted with air filters that prevent any dangerous fumes from escaping. Yesterday’s leak did not threaten the surrounding public or environment, according to depot officials.
Yes, of course everything is contained, we are so reassured! If they know in advance that Umatilla generally experiences more leaks when it is warm, why wouldn’t The Washington Demilitarization Company, which is really URS, which is really Black Stone turn on the air conditioning in the storage areas? A passive filtration system- but no climate control? The storage units are underground. Could they potentially be leaking into an aquifer that occupies a roughly rectangular area of 19,728 acres?
Raytheon holds a patent http://www.patentstorm.us/patents/6516008/description.html for a wavelength conversion system that uses lasers to detect mustard gas but can not be bothered with figured out a better way to prevent these leak incidents? There are also connections from The Center of Public Integrity linking Washington Group International’s leadership roster to read like a Who’s Who of the government contracting business. http://projects.publicintegrity.org/wow/bio.aspx?act=pro&ddlC=65
The U.S. Military put a spin on the hazards of reducing chemical stockpiles in this article just days after the Umatilla incident, “ U.S. gains momentum destroying chemical weapon stockpiles.” on February 2, 2010 http://www.army.mil/-news/2010/02/04/33978-us-gains-momentum-destroying-chemical-weapon-stockpiles/
The U.S. arsenal — which used to include 31,500 tons of chemical weapons such as Sarin, VX and Mustard agents– is systematically being destroyed at an increased pace, Mahall said.
“It is a tremendous success story. Not only is the U.S doing all it can to meet its international commitments, but more importantly the Chemical Materials Agency is contributing to the national security of the United States in the process. These weapons in the wrong hands can do harm. They are safely and securely storing and destroying them while providing maximum protection to the public and environment,” said Carmen Spencer, deputy assistant Secretary of the Army (Elimination of Chemical Weapons).
“As of 26 January, 2010, the U.S. has destroyed a 22,322 tons of the original 31,500 tons,” said Greg Mahall, chief of Public Affairs for the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency (CMA)….In addition to the weapons stored on Johnston Atoll in the Pacific, chemical weapons stockpiles were dispersed among eight locations within in the continental U.S. at Army facilities in Anniston, Ala., Pine Bluff, Ark., Tooele, Utah, Umatilla, Ore., Aberdeen, Md., Newport, Ind., Blue Grass, Ky., and Pueblo, Colo.
A tremendous success story? Who manufactured 31,500 tons of chemical weapons in the first place?
It was not inadvertent that he military failed to mention the leaks at Umatilla, or that they forgot completely about a mustard leak at U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot in November 2009. http://www.cma.army.mil/fndocumentviewer.aspx?docid=003681816 Nor did they mention the numerous lawsuits that have been filed in attempts to stop burning mustard gas. http://www.whistleblower.org/template/page.cfm?page_id=164
Nor did they mention the working conditions where, “URS EG&G — the contractor in charge of incinerating chemical weapons — appears ready to settle a long-running dispute over payment for putting on and removing safety gear, and irregular meal and rest breaks.” http://www.nwlaborpress.org/2009/1120/11-20-09IUOE.html
Nor did they mention the Wall Street Journal article from July 30, 2000, Arms Plant Workers Contend Army Covered Up Gas Leaks. http://www.nytimes.com/2000/07/30/us/arms-plant-workers-contend-army-covered-up-gas-leaks.html?pagewanted=1
A group of workers who were overcome last year by fumes at a chemical weapons plant in Oregon is accusing the Army of covering up leaks of highly toxic nerve agents and mustard gas on the day of the incident. Lawyers for the workers at the Umatilla Chemical Depot charge that investigators from the Army and Raytheon, a defense contractor, concealed four leaks of sarin and mustard gas that occurred just hours after 34 workers became ill on Sept. 15.
The lawyers, citing Army documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, also said chemical agents had leaked at the site 22 times during a six-day period, including the day the workers were sickened. The depot is near Hermiston, in eastern Oregon.
After ten years of a checkered past, The Umatilla Disposal Facility is finally about to undergo some critical evaluations.
“Beginning next week, staff from the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency (CMA) will be on the installation to conduct a Site Assistance Visit (SAV). The intent of the SAV, conducted at the request of the depot commander, is to provide an independent review and assessment of all or a portion of the chemical surety program, and to provide assistance in interpreting surety requirements and correcting problem areas. via http://www.cma.army.mil/fndocumentviewer.aspx?docid=003682334
The Army is sending staff? Wonder if that includes deputy assistant Secretary of the Army, Carmen Spencer?
We’re all for creating a safer tomorrow, it’s another Mustard leak today that we worry about.
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