Learning about Hanford as a Northwest Native

sam

Even though I have lived in Washington for most of my life, this past year has been full of new experiences for me. For the first time, I watched the sun set from Golden Gardens. For the first time, I have planted seeds and maintained a garden, hopeful that I will their vegetables. For the first time, I have seen orca whales swimming in the wild.

For the first time, I have learned about and become familiar with the Hanford nuclear site and its cleanup.

The site has been responsible for environmental contamination since its opening in 1943, when Reactor B, which produced plutonium for the Manhattan Project, began spilling toxic chemicals into the Columbia River. For years, the Hanford nuclear site continued to produce radioactive chemicals such as iodine-131 with little to no oversight from independent, unbiased parties. People living downwind of the plant, including young children, experienced health problems as a result of their exposure to toxic vapors. Even after the closure of its last active reactor, the results of Hanford continues to weigh heavily on the environment and the people of Washington.

I like to think I am born and bred of the Pacific Northwest. If I ever have children, I want to raise them here. I will want them to know how to garden and to watch sunsets at Golden Gardens and to see orcas swimming in the wild as they grow up. I also wish those experiences for the children who live here now.

For that reason, the cleanup of the Hanford nuclear site is incredibly important to me. I want the government to devote the funds necessary to clean the site as safely and responsibly as possible. Given that the estimated costs of that cleaning exceed $100 billion dollars, I know that’s a hefty price tag. But when I consider what’s at stake – the lives of the people working to clean the site, the health of the environment and the people living in the Tri-Cities and beyond, the world our children will grow up in – I can demand no less.

by: Samantha Kettering

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