News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

July 20, 2008

End of VX neutralization process raises questions about future for Newport Chemical Depot, workers

Newport — For many Vermillion County residents, the loss of the deadly nerve agent VX means the loss of solid employment opportunities — it also raises the question of what will happen to the military base where the substance has been stored for decades.

By the end of this month, the last of 1,269 tons of VX will be eliminated, and dismantling of the Newport Chemical Depot will begin. About 130 jobs will be gone permanently by September, according to the Kentucky-based operating contractor Mason & Hanger. After that, depending on the time it takes to dismantle the facility, jobs will be lost in waves. The total closure process could take until 2012, according to officials.

Since the Depot opened in 1941, it has been the largest employer in Vermillion County, employing about 1,000 workers in recent years.

Ed Cole, who serves as both the director of the Economic Development Council of Vermillion County, as well as the point of contact for the Local Redevelopment Authority, said, “The thing that is the immediate impact is the job loss. It is just going to be a tremendously bad hit for us.”

Cole added, “We’ve always looked at that facility as about a thousand jobs. That has varied a little bit based upon whether there’s construction going on, but it is just a huge impact on our local economy.”

Those who are not particular about staying in Vermillion County — or Indiana — may find that opportunities will be available at other disposal installations around the country for experienced employees.

Of the eight other project sites in the United States, four are still in the disposal process, and two have not yet started.

Jeffrey Brubaker, project site manager at Newport Chemical Depot, said, “Some of these people have five to six years of experience and may be highly sought-after at other sites just starting the disposal process.”

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