Understanding and Responding to the Proposed Changes to the Hanford Central Plateau Cleanup Work and Schedule

By: Emily Peterson

On May 15th, 1989, the U.S. Department of Energy Richland Operations Office (DOE), Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signed the Tri-Party Agreement (TPA): a document which defines and ranks cleanup priorities, establishes responsibilities, provides a basis for budgeting, and commits to a goal of achieving full regulatory compliance and remediation as efficiently as possible.

A lot has changed at Hanford since 1989. Particularly the growth of a crystallizing realization by regulators that their idealistic dreams of speedy cleanup are made impossible by many factors, including access to manpower, the slow process of determining how to address each hurdle of effective cleanup, and budgetary restrictions.

When the Tri-Party Agreement was first signed, the ultimate goal was for cleanup to be completed in 2019. Quite obviously, Hanford cleanup will be nowhere near done in three years, so changes need to be made on occasion to extend major cleanup milestones. (Cleanup deadlines for each individual area of cleanup.)

What does that mean?

It means the Tri-Party Agencies (DOE, Ecology, and EPA) need to evaluate what cleanup milestones come first, and which ones get pushed back.

Right now, the Tri-Party Agencies are planning on pushing deadlines for five major milestones related to Central Plateau cleanup. These milestones are:

  • M-015-00: Completing the Remedial Investigations and Feasibility Studies process (this process researches and selects the appropriate approach for cleanup. It does NOT involve cleaning up the site. That comes after this step is complete) for Central Plateau units (except tanks and canyons). This area is marked “Central Plateau Inner Area” on the map below. The deadline is changing from 12/31/2016 to 6/30/2026.
  • M-016-00: Completing the cleanup of the Central Plateau (except for tanks and canyons). This step cannot be completed until M-015-00, above, is complete. The deadline for this large area of cleanup (marked “Central Plateau Inner Area” on the map below), is being pushed from 9/30/2024 to a yet to be determined date.
  • M-085-01: Submitting the dates for completion of canyon cleanup (this milestone would be a culmination of the process of studies to determine an appropriate date for canyon cleanup). The date to set a date for canyon cleanup is being moved from 9/30/2022 to 6/30/2026.
  • M-094-00: Completing the cleanup of the “300 Area” Facilities (on map below). The Tri-Party Agencies are planning on pushing back the cleanup deadline for four 300 Area sites: the 300-296 waste site, the 324 Building, the 618-10 Burial Ground, and the 618-11 Burial Ground (all shown on the map, below). This would move the deadline from 9/30/2018 to 9/30/2021.
  • M-037-00: Completing the cleanup of 12 specific Treatment, Storage and Disposal (TSD) units. This new deadline would move the cleanup deadline of some TSD units from 9/30/2016 to 9/30/2022.

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What can you do?

Speak up! It is an inevitability that cleanup deadlines be rescheduled as regulators evaluate past cleanup performance, future budgets, and manpower constraints. However, you CAN AND SHOULD have a say in the order and timeline of cleanup events at Hanford. How can you do this?

  • Attend the public meeting closest to you. An excellent opportunity to learn more about the potential changes and speak directly to regulators. There are 3 going on in Washington and Oregon this week.
    • November 17 @ 7:00 PM: Seattle – University of Washington Horticultural Center, 3501 NE 41st St, Seattle, WA 98105
    • November 18 @ 7:00 PM: Portland – Marriott Waterfront, 1401 SW Naito Parkway, Portland, OR
    • November 19 @ 6:00 PM: Hood River – Best Western, 1108 E. Marina Way, Hood River, OR 97031
  • Make a public comment. Public comment periods are an important opportunity for the public to have a say in this cleanup process. The public comment period for this change package ends on January 15th, 2016. We will be sending out our Say What? comment writing guide soon, and plan on hosting a comment writing workshop in January to help people craft comments. So why make a public comment?
    • Your comment will be read and responded to. The Tri-Party Agencies are required by law to hold comment periods for proposed changes to permits on the Hanford Site, and send a written response to each individual public comment they receive.
    • You can assure that the agencies know your opinion on cleanup decisions and that you care about Hanford issues. Public comment opportunities let the Tri-Party Agencies know that we are watching what is happening at Hanford and that we want a say in cleanup decisions.
    • It will help you learn about Hanford. If having your voice heard and replied to isn’t a big enough draw to make you put pen on paper, perhaps the opportunity to learn more about Hanford will entice you. Preparing a great public comment requires some research on a particular topic at Hanford that you may not be familiar with. Sending a comment to the Tri-Party Agencies is a great way to buff up on your Hanford knowledge.

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