By Dean Marcum
On May 14, the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program (CSEPP) at the Umatilla Chemical Depot in Eastern Oregon completed its eight-year incineration of 7.4 million pounds of chemical munitions, including nerve and blister agent. CSEPP is a partnership between the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of the Army, working to eliminate all aging chemical munitions and warfare materials, in accordance with international treaties and national policy.
Since 2004, local communities have enjoyed steady employment because of the burn. More than 1,000 jobs were created for this particular project, including first responders from police, fire, EMS, and hospital staff; all were trained and furnished with specialized chemical equipment to protect them in case of an accidental release. Unfortunately, due to the closure, employees will either have to relocate to another CSEPP site, retire, or pursue other jobs.
The equipment, however, will remain in use. Chemical suits and respirators have been given to FEMA Region 10, local hospitals, and other entities. A decontamination trailer has gone to Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg, public warning system equipment has been sent to coastal communities, and a 450 megahertz radio has been retained by Umatilla and Morrow counties for their newly-formed radio communications district.
The 20,000-acre Umatilla Chemical Depot property will be divided for use by the Oregon National Guard, industrial and agriculture businesses; the remainder will be designated as a natural wildlife habitat area. All structures, except for the incineration facility, will be left there for new agencies to use.
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