HERMISTON -- The last container of chemical weapons agent stored at the Umatilla Chemical Depot was delivered to the depot's incineration plant at 11 a.m. Thursday.
"This is a historic date," said ChrisBrown, director of the Oregon ChemicalStockpile Emergency Preparedness Program, or CSEPP.
For the first time in 49 years, chemical munitions are not stored at the depot and next week the last of the containers of chemical munitions could be destroyed.
"True happiness is seeing the tail lights of this enhanced onsite container," said George Newman, depot chief of chemical operations, as workers gathered for a brief ceremony Thursday by the truck and trailer that would haul the last load.
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Before the truck left to pick up the last ton container of mustard weapons agent stored at the depot for the short drive to the incineration plant, workers gathered around to reach up and sign the enhanced onsite container that would carry it.
"Let it burn," wrote Chris Rich.
"Team work made the dream work," contributed Fred Walters.
"It was a great ride!" wrote Mike Wilson.
And from Richard Winter -- "Finally."
The depot was formed in 1941 and received its first shipment of conventional weapons two months before the United States entered World War II. Chemical weapons were added to the depot's stockpile in 1962, and have been in storage since then.
The last of the conventional weapons were shipped from the depot in 1994. Destruction of the chemical weapons started with incineration of nerve agent on site in fall 2004, and by late 2008 just mustard chemical weapon was left to incinerate.
As of Wednesday, 98.8 percent of the mustard agent ton containers had been destroyed. That's 2,603 ton containers.
"Thanks to the efforts of our work force, we were able to safely and compliantly store, secure and ship more than 220,000 chemical weapons," said Lt. Col. Kris Perkins, depot commander.
What workers have done and the work they will continue to do to wrap up the depot project makes the area communities safer for coming generations, he said.
The project also relied on the teamwork and partnership of the Umatilla tribes, CSEPP, area police and firefighting forces, and emergency management agencies and other officials in Benton, Umatilla and Morrow counties, he said.
"We faced a lot of challenges over the years from leakers to all the maintenance operations done on chemicals," Newman said.
But the wrap up of the depot's mission -- down to flushing lines at the incineration plant -- should be completed in November, well before an April 29 deadline of the Chemical Weapons Convention international treaty.
-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; firstname.lastname@example.org