An article in the April 27, 1997 San Francisco Examiner, titled Nerve Gas Unnerving Neighbors
Congress has ordered all the weapons destroyed, a complex process that will take until 2005. For many, its a frightening prospect. The army has dutifully studied dozens of accident scenarios that include the potential for release of lethal poisons into the air. Fatality projections range from zero to more than 20,000. The scenarios range from the credible, such as a forklift accident, to the far-fetched, such as a fully fueled jumbo jet plunging into the depot. In the very worst-case scenario, the one Army brass fear most - a powerful earthquake followed by fire - a plume of chemical residue could reach as far as Seattle or Portland. If the unthinkable happened, most of the deaths would probably occur in towns along the Oregon-Washington border, small farming communities .. within a 20 mile radius of the depot. The Army calls this region the Protective Action Zone. Opponents of the incineration call it the kill zone.
Neither the Allies nor the Nazis used chemical weapons during the war, even though both sides had huge stockpiles ready. The prospect of using them and being subject to retaliation was too horrible to risk. After the war, world leaders signed a protocol outlawing the first use of such weapons but allowing retaliation. All through the 1950s and 60s, the US military manufactured chemical weapons as a deterrent against the Soviet chemical stockpile. Neither the United States nor the Soviets ever used the weapons, and both agreed at the 1990 Chemical Weapons Convention to destroy their stockpiles by 2005. The first of the chemical munitions at Umatilla arrived in 1962, and they kept coming through 1969 - all in secret. The Army did not confirm the presence of the weapons until the 1970s, and specific information about the stockpile was classified until the early 1990s. ...
Today, much of the depot looks abandoned. The facility is in the last stages of being phased out. Only the task of destroying its chemical stockpile remains. All the chemical weapons are stored in 89 igloos inside a fortified compound on the depots north end, an area known as K Block. To enter K Block, one must go through several security checkpoints and be instructed on the use of a gas mask and three auto-injectors of poison-gas antidote. .. K Block houses two kinds of chemical poisons; blistering agents and nerve agents. Blistering agents, such as HD or mustard, causes blistering over the entire body, including the eyes and lungs. Though lethal, mustard is designed to maim rather than kill. Nerve agents, such as VX and GB, the latter commonly known as sarin, attack the nervous system, causing the bodys muscles and heart to tighten in an unyielding death grip.