All parties in a federal lawsuit over chemical vapors at the Hanford nuclear reservation are asking the judge in the case to postpone the trial again.
The parties want more time to pursue mediation, they told Judge Thomas Rice in court documents. Rice already has postponed the trial date twice to allow time for mediation.
The state of Washington, Hanford Challenge and union Local 598 filed lawsuits in September 2015 against the Department of Energy and its tank farm contractor, Washington River Protection Solutions. They are seeking better protection of Hanford workers from chemical vapors associated with waste held in underground tanks.
A second mediation session was held May18-19.
“While the parties made progress towards settlement, the parties were unable to reach an agreement,” plaintiffs and defendants said in court documents.
Additional mediation sessions have been scheduled for July 13-14 and Aug. 1-3.
The trial now is set for April 9, 2018, and parties are requesting a postponement until June 11, 2018.
A series of deadlines must be met before the trial, starting with the current deadline for plaintiffs to submit expert reports in a little over a week. The parties are asking that all deadlines be extended.
If the parties believe that additional mediation or settlement negotiations would be productive after Aug. 3, they could again ask for a trial postponement, they told the judge.
Mediation started after Rice ruled against the plaintiffs’ request that the court require immediate worker protections. The judge found that Hanford workers were already protected until the trial by mandatory supplied air respirators for most work within the Hanford tank farms.
However, he also said that the court does not deny that vapor exposures have occurred or that employees have experienced serious vapor-related illnesses.