System failure causes plant closure at Chemical Depot

HERMISTON -- An HVAC system failure caused the incineration plant at the Umatilla Chemical Depot to shut down on Saturday.

The chemical agent monitoring system did not detect any abnormal conditions and no chemical agent was released from the Umatilla Chemical Agent Disposal Facility, according to information from the depot.

Hal McCune, spokesman for the disposal facility, said there was no container of mustard chemical weapon agent in the incinerator when the problem occurred at 4 p.m. However, workers were in the plant to do some maintenance work.

Those workers, who were in full protective gear, left the plant and other workers on the disposal facility campus were required to put on masks as a safety precaution.

The workers involved in the maintenance work inside the plant were evaluated by a doctor and no exposure to chemical weapon agent was found, McCune said.

The order to wear masks was lifted at 7:45 p.m.

The Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning system balances room pressures within the plant to draw processing area air through carbon filters. Operators had portions of the HVAC system restarted within minutes, restoring the required room pressures. The chemical agent monitoring system remained fully functional.