This will be my final article for the Tri-City Herald’s annual Progress edition. After 16 years at Ecology, including the past 10 as manager of the Nuclear Waste Program, I decided to join my husband in retirement at the end of February.
I am proud to have worked with such a dedicated group of people, not only at Ecology, but also our federal cleanup partners, stakeholder groups and others involved with Hanford cleanup. Like for so many of us who work at Hanford, this cleanup is personal to me. I was born and raised in Richland, and my father was a longtime Hanford employee. It is part of my family history. After many years away from the Tri-Cities, I jumped at the chance to join Ecology to return to my roots and help make a difference in my community.
As I leave state service, I look back with pride on some significant accomplishments made by the Hanford cleanup agencies during my tenure.
Jane Hedges, retired Ecology manager
Hanford cleanup is long and complex, and sometimes progress is hard to see. But as I leave state service, I look back with pride on some significant accomplishments made by the Hanford cleanup agencies during my tenure. Here are some of the highlights:
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Groundwater: In the early 2000s, we heard from the public that groundwater cleanup needed to be a higher priority. This led to the 2004 Hanford Groundwater Strategy, which set a new focus and direction for cleanup. Today, more than 1 billion gallons of groundwater is treated annually at Hanford. One achievement I’m particularly proud of is the massive effort to remove the source of hexavalent chromium near the 100 D Reactor, which has significantly reduced the amount of this toxic chemical reaching the river.
River shore: The removal of more than 17 million tons of contaminated soil from along the river has reduced the threat of future contamination to the Columbia.
Plutonium Finishing Plant: The end is in sight for final remediation and demolition of Hanford’s most hazardous facility, which could be finished as soon as the end of the year.
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: Ecology applauds the Department of Energy and its contractors for making excellent use of the extra boost in federal funding that came to Hanford from 2009-11. The most visible project funded by this windfall was the state-of-the-art groundwater treatment facility in central Hanford, which began operation in 2012.
Tank farms: Lots of work still to do here, but the removal of most liquid waste from the 149 single-shell tanks, and the completion of waste retrieval from 15 of those tanks, has reduced the threat of future leaks to the environment as we wait for the Waste Treatment Plant to come online.
Hanford permit: Ecology took control of the state’s largest dangerous waste permit last summer, allowing us to post the document on our website and giving us more flexibility in updating and managing the permit.
Despite the progress, I regret that some of our most complex challenges still remain. Among these are completing and issuing a revised Hanford permit; resolving technical issues at the vitrification plant so we can start treating tank waste as soon as possible; and finishing cleanup along the river, particularly removing the threat of radioactive contamination at the 324 Building near the river and close to Richland.
I have complete confidence in Ecology’s ability to carry on without me. But if I could offer any words of wisdom to my former colleagues, it would be this:
▪ Keep the big picture of cleanup in mind, but celebrate the victories, however small.
▪ Keep the focus on Ecology’s mission to protect and preserve the environment. This cleanup is too important to fail — for the Tri-Cities, for the Columbia River, for all residents of the Northwest.
▪ Get out in the community. Listen. Learn. Engage.
▪ Look for opportunities to build innovative partnerships — with the other cleanup agencies, the Hanford Advisory Board, tribal nations and interested citizens.
There are so many talented and dedicated individuals working on a timely and protective cleanup, and I look forward to watching the continued progress. Hanford cleanup matters to all of us, and it will take all of us to finish this job.