Hanford which was set up as part of the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb during World War ll is a 586 square mile site near the farming towns of Hanford and White Bluffs. The residents of both towns, and Native Americans living in the area at the time of its construction were re-located under the governments ‘eminent domain’ authority.
Last week Energy Department officials said that one tank had been seen to have falling levels of waste inside it, evidence that it is leaking. the rate from that tank was estimated to be between 150 and 300 gallons a year.
There are reports from Governor Jay Inslee that five more tanks are leaking but that has not been officially confirmed by the Energy Department. Hanford has had issues with leaking tanks in the past and this will add to the soil contamination and could pose an increasing threat to the groundwater below the site.
“There is no immediate or near-term health risk with these newly discovered leaks, which are more than 5 miles from the Columbia River…but nonetheless this is disturbing news for all Washingtonians…this certainly raises questions about the integrity of all 149 single-shell tanks.”
Suzanne Dahl who is the tank waste treatment manager for the State Department of Ecology was more forthright than the governor. She is recorded as saying:
“it points to the age of the tanks and how there’s going to be an increased probability of this happening in the future.”
“When waste is in the tanks, it’s manageable. Once it’s out of the tanks and in the soil, it’s much harder to manage it, remove it and down the road you’re adding to contamination in the groundwater that already exists.”
According to the Environmental Protection Agency approximately tens of thousands of gallons of contaminated water has been discharged into the soil since the facility was built.
There are plans to clean up the waste in a process known as vitrification but this has to be done in a specialist waste treatment plant which Suzanne Dahl says is
“still years away”
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