Umatilla Chemical Depot plans layoffs this month, in 2013

By Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldNovember 6, 2012 

HERMISTON -- The Umatilla Chemical Depot incineration plant plans layoffs this month and then hundreds more in 2013 after finishing incineration of chemical weapon munitions and agents in October 2011.

The plant is about 35 miles south of Kennewick and about half of its workers commute from Washington.

The Umatilla Chemical Agent Disposal Facility will reduce its work force by 34 positions this month -- the third reduction in force during the past year.

Three more rounds of layoffs are planned in 2013, which are estimated to include 400 to 450 job cuts next year.

URS, which built and operates the incineration plant, said it is working to place employees at its other projects. That includes demilitarization sites being constructed in Colorado and Kentucky, where chemical weapon agents will be neutralized with water and other chemicals.

URS also is a prime subcontractor at the Hanford vitrification plant under construction, and incineration facility employees would be well-suited to work to commission the plant.

However, commissioning is being replanned and no date for the work is yet known.

Eleven of the 34 employees losing their positions this month at the Umatilla plant are transferring to other URS projects, resulting in 23 people being laid off. Of the positions being eliminated, 27 are at the plant in departments such as maintenance and operations, while seven are from support departments -- finance, training and supply chain.

November's layoffs coincide with the shutdown of the project's second liquid incinerator, leaving only the metal parts furnace operating. The plant is being used for its own cleanup and demolition, incinerating contaminated materials.

The next round of layoffs is scheduled for February when the metal parts furnace is scheduled for shutdown. About 150 positions will be eliminated at that time.

Up to about 200 positions are expected to be cut in July when the control room no longer is needed. More positions, possibly close to 100, will be cut by fall 2013.

This month's reductions will leave staffing at 738 employees. The project had about 830 employees when it completed munitions and agent operations.

Plant closure work is expected to take about two more years, with periodic layoffs scheduled as significant closure milestones are reached.

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com

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