Workers Exceed Goal for Removing Groundwater Contamination at the Hanford Site

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RICHLAND, Wash. – The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and contractor CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company (CH2M HILL) workers exceed the DOE’s annual goal of removing 500 pounds of hexavalent chromium from groundwater near the Columbia River at the Hanford Site in southeast Washington state.  The annual goal was for fiscal year 2013, which runs from October 2012 to September 2013.

“Our goal is to eliminate the risk of contaminated groundwater reaching the Columbia River, and we are making significant progress,” said Federal Project Director Briant Charboneau, DOE Richland Operations Office. “Hanford Site groundwater entering the river does not pose a risk to human health. We are operating groundwater treatment systems along the river to prevent risk to aquatic species that live in the gravels below the river where Hanford groundwater enters the river.”

CH2M HILL is responsible for treating all of Hanford’s contaminated groundwater, including areas with hexavalent chromium contamination, or plumes, covering a five-square-mile area along the Columbia River. The plumes are equivalent in area to 2,400 football fields. Since the first treatment systems for chromium began operating in the mid-1990s, Hanford contractors have removed a total of 5,700 pounds of chromium from groundwater.

The contamination resulted from Hanford’s plutonium production era for the nation’s defense. Planned and unplanned releases of chemicals from the site’s plutonium production reactors contaminated a large area of soil along the river. Over time, the chemicals seeped into the groundwater, which flows toward the river.

The Columbia River is a vital resource and habitat for wildlife, including salmon. The river is also a resource for drinking water, agriculture and recreatio