Dangerous Waste

The Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) is our State’s regulatory agency focusing on the management of air, land, and water.  Ecology administers laws and regulations dealing with hazardous waste cleanup, water rights, shoreline management, pollution prevention, natural resource qualities, and other related issues. They also organize monitoring and scientific assessments of natural resources and the environment.

Ecology is delegated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate Resource Conservation and Recovery Act activities and standards at Hanford.  Ecology is responsible to permit the Hanford Site through RCRA.  Permitting is a tedious back and forth process between the regulator and the permittee.  Some permits, for a dry cleaner, for example, are simple and straightforward, regulating the disposal path for dry cleaning related chemicals.  Because Hanford is so complex, there is a “Site-Wide” permit that contains individual permits called units for waste sites and areas of the site, like the Double-Shell Tanks.

The permit sets conditions (instructions to follow) based on the state’s laws and regulations that control the treatment, storage, and disposal of dangerous (chemically hazardous) wastes.  The Permit is broken up into different kinds of units; operating units, closure units, corrective action units, and post closure units that designate where that waste area is in the process of being cleaned up.  One way to think about the permit is that it manages waste sites from cradle to grave.  So as cleanup progresses for a certain site it will move through the different unit designations until it is clean and therefore no longer in need of permitting.

The entire site-wide permit is meant to be renewed every 10 years.  This year is the first time since 1994 that the entire draft permit is out for public review.  The comment period runs until October 22nd. You can find the permit sections online through Ecology’s website.  We also created a Say What? Guide to help you find more references and information about the permit.

At our September Hanford Advisory Board meeting we passed advice on the Draft permit after a multi-year process getting ready for the permit’s release and reviewing the 16,000 page document.  That is not a typo.  The Permit is really that long.  Need a good read for your book club?

Hanford Challenge is working on comments and we’ll share them when they’re ready.

By: Liz Mattson

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