Chemical weapons incinerator fined $800,000 in the past 12 years

A defense contractor has been fined more than $800,000 over the past 12 years while incinerating a stockpile of leftover chemical weapons stored at the Umatilla Chemical Depot in northeastern Oregon, a recent report revealed.
The most recent fines against Washington Demilitarization Co. from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality were for issues including failing to inspect pollution control equipment before putting it back into operation. These latest fines amounted to $38,400, bringing the total to $853,600, the Associated Press reports.
Sarah Wheeler, a department environmental law specialist, said that none of the violations resulted in public health or environmental harm.
Hal McCune of the Washington Demilitarization Co. said that the bulk of the fines were the result of issues reported by the company itself. Some of the fines have been reduced through negotiations and the company has paid approximately $725,000. Close to half of that has gone to community programs, such as food banks around Central Oregon.
"It is difficult to abide by the very stringent regulations we have," McCune said, according to the Associated Press. "We do our best, but understand that we may not always be able to measure up to those strict requirements. We respect DEQ's ruling."
The depot at one time held 12 percent of the nation's stockpile of old chemical weapons. The incinerator, which employs approximately 800 people, finished disposing of the chemical weapons stockpile three weeks ago. It is still operating to dispose of secondary waste, such as protective suits worn by workers. The depot is scheduled to be completely shut down over the next three years.
Washington Demilitarization is a subsidiary of URS Corp., which has contracts to dispose of 90 percent of the chemical weapons stockpile throughout the country.
The most recent fine was for failing to inspect a spare mist eliminator before using it to process water contaminated with mustard agent, failing to properly set the incinerator's operating parameters while treating contaminated water used to rinse mustard agent containers, and failing to monitor air quality outside a container used to store mustard agent as often as required.
McCune said that while they company was unlikely to appeal the latest fine, it would still review it.