Back to the Drawing Board

The Draft Dangerous Waste Permit for the Hanford Site attracted over 4,000 comments.  The comments raised questions and concerns about everything from how the permit was written to its noncompliance with hazardous waste laws and regulation.  Hanford is a complex site, and it falls under the jurisdiction of numerous state and federal regulations.  Contaminants found in the soil and groundwater include (among other things) chemicals such as carbon tetrachloride, chromium and nitrate, and radioactive materials such as uranium, strontium 90, technetium 99, tritium and iodine 129.  Of those contaminants, chromium, nitrate, uranium, technetium, tritium and strontium have reached the Columbia River.

Hanford is one of the largest hazardous waste sites in the country, making this permit of the utmost importance.  This permit sets the regulatory and enforcement framework for work to be done at Hanford.  This work, as many of you know, includes the cleanup of over 70 square miles of highly contaminated groundwater making its way into the Columbia River, cleanup of waste burial sites along the Columbia River, demolition of old reactor and plutonium processing facilities, the stabilization of over 56 billion gallons of liquid sludge waste stored in 177 leaking waste tanks buried onsite, and much more.

The Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) recently released news ( that they are going to revise and reissue a Draft Dangerous Waste Permit for the Hanford Site.  The 16,000 page Draft Permit took many years to draft and was out for public comment from May-October 2012.  Due to arguments and new information including problems plaguing the Waste Treatment Plant and leaking double-shell waste tanks brought up in comments on the Draft Permit, Ecology has decided to re-work the permit for the next two years and then reissue the Draft Permit for another round of comments.

This permit is long overdue and needs to be reworked to sufficiently protect the environment and human health. Ecology has the opportunity to get it right this time and they should invest the time and resources to do so to create a strong base for enforcement of hazardous waste regulations at Hanford. Stay tuned for more updates on the permit process and to be engaged in the next record of public comments on this keystone document governing cleanup at Hanford.

By: Meredith Crafton

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