Depot burning chemical weapons at quicker pace

Aug 25, 2011

The U.S. Army says its contractors have quickened the pace of weapons incineration at the Umatilla Chemical Depot. Fewer than 400 ton-sized containers of deadly liquid mustard agent remain at the northeast Oregon site.

The state Department of Environmental Quality has given the green light to using the facility's full capacity to burn those containers. The incineration had been going at a slower clip.

Depot spokesman Michael Fletcher says some of the final containers of mustard agent are more difficult to handle.

"Some of these containers were filled in the early 60s," he says. "Because they've been in storage for so long, some of them have sediment that have precipitated out in the form of what they call a 'hard heel.' Those require a little bit more care."

The Umatilla Chemical Depot is on pace to burn the rest of its mustard agent by this November. That's ahead of the deadline next April set by international treaties.

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