Washington Closure Hanford on Wednesday built on its 11-year success cleaning up most of the 220 square miles of the Hanford nuclear reservation along the Columbia River.
With just two days left before its contract with the Department of Energy expires, the company gave a legacy gift to the Tri-City community.
The Hanford contractor wrote a check for $300,000, much of it to be used to help pay for projects so people can enjoy the river as newly cleaned up land becomes available for public access.
An endowment with the donation is being created at the Reach museum in Richland, which will allow others to contribute.
“What we really want to spend it on is things and work, not paperwork,” said Washington Closure President Scott Sax.
It is intended to honor the work of Washington Closure employees and remind the public of their accomplishments, he said.
Workers tore down 324 buildings, some of them heavily contaminated; cleaned up 576 waste sites and hauled nearly 12 million tons of debris and contaminated soil away from the river to a lined landfill.
(The Columbia River’s Hanford Reach is) a gem of our community.
Scott Sax, Washington Closure president
With eventual access to newly cleaned up Hanford land along the Columbia, area residents and visitors will have a chance to see what an amazing place the Hanford Reach is, Sax said. The Reach, which runs through the Hanford nuclear reservation, is the last free-flowing stretch of the Columbia River.
“It’s a gem of our community,” Sax said.
The endowment could pay for items like trails, docks or recreation areas along the river or upgrades that will enhance visitors’ experience at the new Manhattan Project National Historical Park, which includes historic areas of Hanford.
Initially, a committee with representatives from Washington Closure, the Reach museum and its foundation will consider proposals for spending money to enhance the public’s experiences at the Columbia River at Hanford.
Eventually Washington Closure — which is owned by AECOM, Bechtel and CH2M — could relinquish its role on the committee, but wants to make sure the endowment gets off to a good start.
Some of the money has been spent to update and expand the “Protecting Our River” exhibit at the entrance of the Reach museum.
A highlight is a tank with fish native to the Columbia River.
The exhibit includes a video on the work done by Washington Closure, since the public has not been able to see the work firsthand on the closed nuclear reservation, and vignettes about some of the workers on the projects.
It’s also be retrofitted to create an area in the museum that provides activities for the youngest visitors, those under 5, who can learn about the Columbia River.