Noxious fumes at umatilla depot sends 32 workers to hospital : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Noxious fumes at Umatilla Depot sends 32 workers to hospital

The Associated Press 09/16/99 4:14 AM Eastern

HERMISTON, Ore. (AP) -- Three workers remain under hospital observation after noxious fumes were released at the Umatilla Chemical Depot, sending 800 workers home and more than 30 to the hospital.

Army officials described the incident, which happened at about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, as minor, and stressed that there was no release of nerve gas or any other toxic chemicals from the U.S. Army storage facility.

Of the 32 workers taken to Good Shepherd Hospital in Hermiston, three were being held for observation, said Kelly Sanders, a hospital spokesman. One of the workers was suffering from chest pains, Sanders said.

Sanders said some workers who arrived at the hospital reported they'd vomited, and others said they had difficulty breathing after inhaling the air inside a building under construction at the army base.

The employees are with Raytheon Demilitarization Co., which is building a nerve-gas incinerator at Umatilla.

"It had nothing to do with weapons," said Mary Binder, a depot spokeswoman. More than 3,000 tons of deadly nerve and mustard gases are stored in bunkers at the 20,000-acre base along Interstate 84 about 10 miles east of Boardman.

The army is building a $300 million incinerator complex to dispose of the weapons.

Several workers reported falling ill as they labored inside the Munitions Demilitarization Building, a two-story structure the size of a football field that will contain systems for dismantling weapons and draining and burning the lethal chemicals.

The building is about two-thirds complete. Equipment testing will begin in October, and weapons destruction is scheduled to start October 2001.

About 12 percent of the nation's chemical weapons, some of which date back to World War II, are stored at Umatilla in concrete igloos.

About 27,000 people live within a dozen miles of the depot.

Army officials don't know what made the workers sick, but the safety and environmental specialists are on the scene, monitoring equipment and checking for contamination, said Mary Binder.

Binder said construction work is scheduled to resume at the site today.

An interruption in the region's long-distance telephone service two hours earlier, caused by a farmer who accidentally cut a U S West fiber-optics line near Willowdale northeast of Madras, apparently contributed to reports that chemical weapons felled the workers, officials said.

"With long-distance going out, there was no way to get word out or anything," said Buddy Davis, executive director of Benton-Franklin County American Red Cross.

Umatilla County's 911 system remained intact, and officials said they never activated the community alarm system.

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? We welcome your feedback.

)1999 Oregon Live LLC

-- Homer Beanfang (, September 16, 1999


"'It had nothing to do with the weapons,' said Mary Binder, a depot spokeswoman."

"Army officials don't know what made the workers sick..."

Does anyone see the contradiction here?

When were all the journalists replaced with "Furbys?"


-- Liberty (, September 16, 1999.

There have been several articles about the perils of the Umatilla Death Factory. Major population centers are downwind from this dangerous repository of chemical warfare stockpiles/experiments. Wonder how compliant the place is. Do we have gasmasks? Yes.

Homer, are you a Cascadian?

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (, September 16, 1999.

Ashton & Leska,

I live in sunny S. California, I do not plan to be here on the rollover.


-- Homer Beanfang (, September 16, 1999.

Reminds me of how the workers at Boeing got sick working with some of the milspec composites. It was so top-secret, they tried to keep eveverything about this under wraps and the workers weren't protected by OSHA etc.

-- Mara Wayne (, September 16, 1999.

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