Wednesday, December 01, 2010
URS fined for violations at Umatilla Chemical Depot

By Annette Cary, Herald staff writer

HERMISTON -- The operator of the Umatilla Chemical Depot's incineration plant was fined for the second time this year Tuesday by the state of Oregon.

The state Department of Environmental Quality levied $58,600 in penalties against the Washington Demilitarization Co., a URS-owned company, for eight hazardous waste violations.

That follows $41,600 in civil penalties to ensure compliance with the plant's waste treatment permit four months ago.

The largest portion of the new fine, $20,800, is for failing to conduct complete air quality monitoring for chemical weapon agent in the plant's filter system, according to the state.

Although near real-time monitors were operating, a secondary monitor required to check for residual VX nerve agent was not fully operational for almost a month this spring, according to the state. The incinerator by then was on its final and continuing campaign to destroy weapons mustard agent.

At no time were workers, the public or the environment in jeopardy, said Hal McCune, spokesman for the Umatilla Chemical Agent Disposal Facility. The violations should not have occurred, but they did not present a direct danger, he said.

The fine was reduced based on Washington Demilitarization's efforts to correct issues. Most of the issues were reported to the state by the company, McCune said. It does not plan to appeal.

The fine also covered the failure to stop the flow of hazardous waste into a leaking tank in January, according to the state. The company discovered a leak in a brine tank, yet continued to feed brine generated as a waste during treatment into the tank for nearly another full day, according to the state. That part of the fine totaled $8,800.

In another instance the company fed two-ton containers of mustard agent into the furnace in May even though the waste had arsenic in excess of the permit limit, according to the state. It assessed a $4,800 penalty for that violation.

The fine also covered the failure to conduct a daily inspection of the metal parts furnace and its pollution abatement system on one day; failure to properly conduct weekly inspections of a waste storage area for 10 weeks and failure to properly record some calibration data, according to the state.

In addition, the state issued a portion of the fine for failing to provide timely information to the state.

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533;