The Tooele Chemical Agent Disposal Facility’s contractor has started to lay off and displace many of its remaining workers, the latest step in the end to the area’s chemical weapon era.
Beginning last week, URS, TOCDF’s contractor, started the gradual layoff of 400 of its remaining 629 workers — already a steep dropoff from URS’ peak of 1,200 workers with TOCDF. Those workers have been on-site sterilizing and ensuring the decontamination of the chemical weapons destruction facility.
The process of clearing the facility of any trace of mustard gas, lewisite, nerve gas and other substances it destroyed has been ongoing since Deseret Chemical Depot destroyed the last of its stockpile in January 2012, even after DCD was turned back over to Tooele Army Depot as its South Area in July.
Mark Mesesan, project communications specialist for URS, said the reduction in force could have an impact on the unemployment rate in Tooele County, but does not want to speculate about the degree of the impact and that the company has been trying to prepare for the shift.
“We have been proactive for the last half-dozen years in encouraging our employees to prepare personally for closure,” Mesesan wrote in an email. “Some have retired or plan to retire after their jobs end here, and many others who have been released are now employed elsewhere.”
The reduction in force began last week and will continue through the end of the year. According to a press release, 53 URS employees have transferred to Pueblo Chemical Depot in Pueblo, Colo.; 15 have transferred to Blue Grass Army Depot in Blue Grass, Ky.; 11 have transferred to other URS sites; and 48 other workers have pending offers at other locations.
Ensuring TOCDF is clean and ready to be dismantled has been a lengthy process, most lately involving a series of unventilated monitoring tests. From February to August, workers set up sensors in 13 isolated areas of the facility, and those tests came back clean, said Amy Blauser, community outreach representative for TOCDF.
On Tuesday, she said, workers began setting up 82 sampling units in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning ducts throughout the facility for the last test before TOCDF can be declared clean enough for demolition. If those tests come back clean, as well, she said, the HVAC system will be shut off in preparation for razing . The demolition contractor is scheduled to begin work in mid-December.
Demolition is scheduled to begin in January, Blauser said, and should be finished by July 2014.