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More Staff Reduction At Umatilla Depot As Site Nears Final Cleanup

Hal McCune
Workers at the Umatilla Chemical Depot are focused now on environmental sampling to make sure the site of the chemical incinerator is now clean.

The Umatilla Chemical Depot is letting go of 60 more workers. Just 100 remain, down from more than 800 a few years ago.

The northeast Oregon military site, where tons of deadly chemical weapons were stored for decades, is nearing final cleanup.

The site is now home to a pit of dirt and gravel, where the massive incineration plant used to stand. The big machine destroyed chemical weapons from World War II. Some were stored here since the late 1960s.

Hal McCune is the spokesman for URS, the federal contractor cleaning up the site. He says the work now consists of environmental sampling to find any trace chemicals.

“If you look across where the plant used to be you see lots of stakes with little red and green flags on them," McCune says. "It looks like a miniature golf course with lots of holes or something. But we are doing a lot of sampling to make sure we are using the area clean and ready for future use.”

McCune says by October there will be just a couple dozen workers left to handle the final paperwork.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.