Argument Details Lack of Permitting & Health Risks for Oregon, Washington Citizens

(Washington, D.C) – The Government Accountability Project (GAP), on behalf of Oregon environmental group GASP, Oregon Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, and other petitioners, have filed a motion in the Circuit Court for the State of Oregon, County of Multnomah, seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to stop the incineration of more than 2,600 “ton containers” of mustard agent at the Umatilla Chemical Depot (UCD) near Hermiston, Oregon. The court will hear the argument tomorrow, Friday June 12 at 1:30 p.m. PDT. Burning of the agent reportedly began late last week, according to several news articles.

The burning of the mustard agent found in ‘ton containers’ at Umatilla has been delayed amidst much controversy for nearly two years, due to several issues. Most prominently among these is the unknown levels of mercury in the agent, which Oregon state reports have shown significantly increases the risk of health and environmental damage for surrounding populations when burned and released into the environment.

“We’re asking the court to stop this burning, which we believe poses a serious health threat to citizens of Oregon and Washington state,” said GAP Senior Counsel Richard Condit, who will argue the motion before the Court tomorrow in Portland.

Unlike similar chemical depot plants with this type of mustard agent, the quantities of such hazardous wastes in the ‘ton containers’ stored in the Umatilla stockpile (63 percent by weight of all the stockpiled munitions) have never been determined, because the EQC and Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) have refused to require testing of each of the ton containers. It is known that UCD’s mustard agent does contain significant amounts of mercury, however, because plant officials announced it did in 2007. The EQC and DEQ decided last year to move forward with their incineration plan, despite evidence included in a risk assessment showing that the risk of cancer to humans posed by the incineration plan exceeded Oregon’s acceptable risk standards. A critique of that assessment by Dr. Peter deFur indicates that the risks posed by the incineration of mustard agent at the Umatilla facility are significantly underestimated by the Army, DEQ and contractors that prepared the assessment. In particular, the risks posed to children were inadequately evaluated.

Click here to read Dr. Peter deFur’s critique

Both agencies were presented with proposals regarding alternatives to destroying the agent, such as “controlled detonation” technology (which other Army facilities are inquiring about) and a chemical “neutralization” method (which has been praised by both communities near the chemical weapons stockpiles and the Army). However, these ideas were dismissed by the state agencies, despite Oregon law requiring that the “best available technology” is selected to disposal of such dangerous and hazardous wastes.

Please contact GAP Senior Counsel Richard Condit at 202.465.0515, or G.A.S.P. representative and petitioner Karyn Jones at 541.567.6579, karynj@charter.net for comment.

You can read the motion filed here

You can read the memo supporting the motion here

Government Accountability Project

The Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, GAP’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, GAP is a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.