Our Voice: Thumbs up to Hanford workers in reducing chromium contamination

June 8, 2014 

Dig it

To Hanford workers for removing largest source of chromium contamination near the Columbia River.

The workers dug up contaminated soil down to groundwater 85 feet deep, eliminating what Hanford officials have been calling the mother lode of chromium.

A massive continuing source of chromium was suspected because two groundwater treatment systems capable of treating 50 million gallons of contaminated water a month failed to reduce the amount of contamination reaching the river.

Chromium levels weren't dropping because the groundwater was being decontaminated with chromium in the soil, said Dwayne Crumpler, a hydrogeologist for the Washington State Department of Ecology.

Now some initial tests show promise that the level of contamination in the groundwater is starting to go down, he told Herald reporter Annette Cary.

Sodium dichromate was added as a corrosion inhibitor to river water used to cool Hanford reactors that produced weapons plutonium.

A Washington Closure Hanford team excavated enough contaminated soil to create a hole covering the area of about seven and a half football fields at the ground's surface and about one football field at the bottom.

Contaminated soil was disposed of at the Environmental Restoration Disposal Facility, a lined landfill in central Hanford. The most heavily contaminated soil was mixed with cement to contain the chromium before it was added to the landfill.

Keeping this chromium out of the groundwater is crucial because it can cause cancer in humans and is particularly toxic to fish and other aquatic life, including salmon fry from spawning in the Hanford Reach.

Roll up your sleeve

To unvaccinated travelers who are helping measles make a comeback in the United States after the disease was nearly eradicated in the last century.

This year, the United States is experiencing a record number of measles cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

From Jan. 1 to May 30, there were 334 confirmed measles cases reported to CDC, including at least a dozen in Washington. More than 46 people have been hospitalized nationwide.

This is the highest number of cases since the elimination of measles was documented in the U.S. in 2000.

Eliminated here, but not in the rest of the world. The CDC traced most cases of disease this year to Southeast Asia or Europe, where major epidemics are under way.

France is an example of what can go wrong if the disease isn't kept in check by rigorous vaccination requirements. More than 10,000 cases and six deaths from the disease have been reported there this year.

The CDC traced a large majority of U.S. cases - 89 percent - to unvaccinated travelers. Patients included 24 kids whose parents claimed a religious or personal exemption from vaccinations.

The CDC wants individuals to get vaccinated with the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine before traveling internationally to reduce the likelihood of bringing a deadly virus home to the United States.

That's a simple and straightforward solution.

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