Drug tests were administered to all workers at the Hanford vitrification plant construction site last week.
In recent months, three instances of drugs or drug paraphernalia found at the construction site have been reported to the Benton County Sheriff’s Office, which investigates crime at the Hanford nuclear reservation. However, the illegal substances have not been linked to any individuals.
“The Tri-Cities Metro Drug Task Force has reported that drug trafficking in the Pacific Northwest is on the increase,” said Suzanne Heaston, spokeswoman for Bechtel National, the Department of Energy contractor for the vit plant.
The vit plant is seeing a similar increase in occurrences of illegal drug discovery, she said. However, positive drug test results for vit plant employees remain significantly below the national average, she said.
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The items found at the vit plant construction site in recent months included a drug pipe, a pouch with heroin tar residue and a small amount of methamphetamine.
About 1,000 workers, including union and nonunion employees, work at the construction site and were tested for drugs.
“Our action is a prudent response to the regional increase and to our own observations at the site,” Heaston said.
Bechtel National conducts pre-employment drug screening and also random drug testing. Bechtel’s goal is to provide a safe workplace free of substance abuse, Heaston said.
The $12.3 billion vitrification plant is being built for the Department of Energy and will treat up to 56 million gallons of radioactive waste for disposal. The waste is left from the past production of plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program.
No radioactive waste has been transferred yet to the vitrification plant site, but the plant has the hazards typical of any large construction project.