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Worker Exposed to Mustard Agent at Umatilla

Dylan Blaylock, March 23, 2010

Late last week, a worker at the Umatilla Chemical Depot was apparently exposed to mustard agent, causing a blister. It is believed to be the first time that a worker at the plant, against which GAP has been involved in numerous lawsuits, has been exposed to the dangerous chemical agent. (Seattle Times story)

While GAP has not focused on worker safety concerns at the Depot, we do have a history of fighting against the Army and Oregon agencies running the plant, who have decided to utilize the controversial method of incineration to destroy the mustard agent. GAP’s position is that this method of agent destruction is clearly not the “best available technology” for doing so (as state law requires). Rather, a water neutralization method has been used at other chemical depots around the country to glowing praise. This neutralization method would truly minimize any risk of outside contamination – whereas GAP believes the incineration method would release dangerous levels of mercury into the atmosphere.

Unfortunately, the Army is proceeding with the incineration method and the Depot is getting ready to run the “trial burn,” which would determine how fast they can incinerate the agent. GAP continues to monitor the situation.