A Brief History of Chemical Agent Stockpiling In the USA
In modern times, chemical weapons were first utilized during World War I. Agents such as chlorine gas were released from enormous containers which when combined with heavy wind could produce massive casualties against the enemy. Perhaps the most famous of all which began being used by both sides during the first World War was Mustard Gas. There was little protection against this particular chemical agent. Military gear including respirators could not prevent damage from occurring.
Prior to the beginning of World War II, newer chemical weapons known as “nerve gasses” began to appear. They appeared to be more effective for soldiers in combat because they could be used in much smaller quantities in comparison to mustard gas.
After Vietnam and the Geneva Protocol in 1975, the US finally outlawed the usage of these chemical agents and thus the stockpiling process began throughout the country. There are quite a few locations where America does stockpile chemical weapons or agents in the form of munitions and bulk storage containers.
One of the main areas is the Umatilla Chemical Depot which is located in Oregon. For more than half a century the US has maintained a stockpile of chemical agents for possible use in wartime. You can also view this as the US warning other countries against their usage of such agents against U.S. forces.
Methods of Disposal of Chemical Agents
There have been various methods in the past used to dispose of chemical munitions including open pit burning, land burial, and even ocean dumping. Obviously, many of these today are not feasible due to environmental concerns especially related to wildlife. In the years since these mass dumpings have occurred, the US army has developed brand new disposal concepts which outline health, safety, and environmental standards. This program which was established is known as the Chemical Stockpile Disposal Program or the CSDP.
Umatilla County Chemical Depot
One particular disposal depot which is located in Northeastern Oregon in Umatilla County is known as the Umatilla Chemical Depot. The UMCD houses chemical agents in ton containers, rockets, bombs, spray tanks, land mines, and even projectiles. There is specialized equipment on site in order to help dispose of these weapons in the safest, least environmentally harmful way possible. Incinerators, dryers and flash evaporators are available on site.
Comprehensive Monitoring of Hazardous Waste on Site
Now due to the fact that these chemicals which are hazardous to humans, plants, and animals will be stored or disposed of on-site, some type of monitoring is needed. This is a prerequisite so that a chemical disposal facility can monitor factors such as sampling of soil, water samples, biota samples, data validation, stat analysis and report preparation.
This is also primarily done in order to measure overall risk assessment from chemical-related exposure which may occur in a human or animal population. Data is needed to measure what effect, if any these chemicals may have in certain measurements on any given animal tissue, in soil, in water, or in the air.
The Umatilla depot is compromised into three unique phases. These include 1) before operations, 2) operational and 3) post-operational. It also runs within three different zones. The first covers an area within the main boundaries of the Umatilla depot, zone 2 stretches within 31 miles of the depot and zone 3 reaches far beyond the 31 mile radius. So you can see from preparations made by the US army, things are quite under control and in a very controlled environment.
We can thank the PMCD or Program Manager for Chemical Demilitarization for applying for a hazardous waste permit. Public knowledge of such has brought us into a time where we have full awareness of how toxic and dangerous these past wartime chemicals may be.