Feds And Washington State Sign Fresh Agreement To Protect Hanford Workers

Demolition work at the Plutonium Finishing Plant at the Hanford Site is a year behind schedule and the project has been plagued with the spread of radioactive waste. CREDIT: ANNA KING
Demolition work at the Plutonium Finishing Plant at the Hanford Site is a year behind schedule and the project has been plagued with the spread of radioactive waste. CREDIT: ANNA KING/N3

The state of Washington has been after the federal government to keep Hanford cleanup workers from getting sick. Today they filed an agreement in federal court.

At Hanford, there’s 56 million gallons of radioactive sludge in aging underground tanks. It’s a witches brew of chemicals. Often, those tanks burp up vapors. And it’s made some workers sick with headaches, burning skin and even lung disease.

After years of federal studies, lawsuits and medical treatment for workers, the federal government and the state have agreed on a plan.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced the deal Wednesday at a press conference in Seattle.

“Hanford is a federal site. The Department of Energy and the federal government oversee the site, which means it’s their responsibility to keep workers safe,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson said the federal Department of Energy has agreed to monitor for vapors, install an alarm system, and build a new venting and treatment system.

Hanford workers will continue to use supplied air as the new systems are tested. And the federal government will pay $925,000 split between Washington state, a Hanford watchdog group and a Hanford labor union.

KUOW’s Amy Radil contributed to this story.

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File photo of Hanford's PUREX plant. COURTESY MICHELE GERBER/N3

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