Cleanup of Hanford’s River Corridor remains far from complete
The Columbia River is the lifeblood of the Pacific Northwest, providing vital resources to the people of the entire region. The Hanford Reach of the Columbia River flows for 50 miles past the Hanford Nuclear Site, the most contaminated place in the Western Hemisphere. This last free-flowing stretch of the Columbia River has immeasurable importance for Tribal people, downstream communities, salmon, and clean water for the entire region.
To the U.S. Department of Energy, Washington Department of Ecology, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:
I urge the U.S. Department of Energy (Energy), Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology), and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to fulfill their responsibility to protect people, the environment, and the Columbia River from extensive ongoing contamination of soil and groundwater in the Hanford Reach.
Energy, Ecology, and EPA are signatories to the Tri-Party Agreement (TPA) which requires the agencies to achieve a cleanup that will protect people and the environment. Soon the TPA agencies will make critical decisions about cleanup plans in Hanford’s River Corridor. For example, proposed studies and plans for the 100-K Reactor and 100-N Reactor areas will determine how much contamination Energy removes from soil and groundwater near the Columbia River. Meanwhile, ongoing contamination in Hanford’s 300 Area poses significant cleanup challenges that Energy must address in coming years in order to protect the Columbia River. Radionuclides such as strontium, uranium, and tritium and toxic pollutants such as hexavalent chromium and nitrate are a few examples of pollution that still impact soil and groundwater—and in some areas, the River itself.
Generations have worked to clean up Hanford, and generations more will rely on the Hanford Reach and its resources. To protect people and the environment, I urge the Tri-Party agencies to remove, treat, and dispose of as much contaminated soil and groundwater as possible rather than allowing prolonged contamination to threaten the Columbia River. Energy is eager to declare that the cleanup will be “off the River” within five years, potentially by imposing restrictions on surface and groundwater use rather than cleaning up pollution. Instead, the TPA agencies should focus on the work necessary to study, develop and implement plans that ensure that the River Corridor can be returned to use by the Tribal people and others in the region who will rely on it for generations to come.
Cleanup of Hanford’s River Corridor remains far from complete. I urge the TPA agencies to undertake the most robust remediation possible: the stakes for the Columbia and the people who depend on it are simply too high to shortcut the cleanup effort and prolong the impact to the river that sustains all of us.
This product is funded through a Public Participation Grant from the Washington State Department of Ecology. The content was reviewed for grant consistency but is not necessarily endorsed by the agency.
Hanford is the most contaminated site in the Western Hemisphere. Cleanup matters.