Project Management

2012 PMI Project of the Year Award Wi nner: Defying the Odds

Keith Jackson II

Holding more than 220,000 aging and decaying weapons containing 7.4 million pounds (34 million kilograms)of VX, sarin and mustard gases, the Umatilla Chemical Depot Facility could be a dangerous place.

The Hermiston, Oregon, USA site held 12 percent of the U.S. chemical weapons inventory, one of the largest stashes in the country, created for use in previous wars.

Under a disarmament treaty signed by 188 countries, the project team at the Umatilla facility was tasked with safely destroying the stockpile by 29 April 2012.

Recognizing the great risk and complexity of the project, the U.S. Army brought in the engineering firm URS. Even with the company’s extensive chemical demilitarization experience, it was still a “massive undertaking,” says Steven Warren, PhD, project general manager at URS.

And the team would be completing the project with the world watching. Along with international treaty inspectors on site, Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality set up an office near the facility to monitor compliance.

Safety Check

Given the dangers inherent to dealing with such volatile weapons and chemicals, URS knew it had to make safety a priority. Any slip-up could have serious— even deadly—consequences, from sarin gas and VX nerve agent polluting the surrounding environment to a munitions fire scorching the …

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