The Department of Energy has agreed to pay a $44,722 penalty to resolve more violations of radioactive and hazardous chemical waste storage requirements at Hanford, as alleged by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The two agencies signed a consent agreement Wednesday, with DOE neither admitting nor denying violations. Money for Hanford cleanup will be returned to the U.S. Treasury.
The penalty follows $136,000 DOE agreed to pay in 2013, also related to storing radioactive and hazardous chemical waste at Hanford. But DOE did not follow through on all the requirements that were part of that settlement, according to the EPA.
In 2013, EPA told DOE it needed to follow the same procedures required of private businesses that store waste. If storage is not used for more than a year, it must give notice to start closing the waste storage unit or request an extension to continue using it.
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DOE then had waste stored in five areas inside and outdoors at T Plant in central Hanford, plus additional sites at the Central Waste Complex and near some burial trenches that EPA said had not been authorized for the storage of waste.
DOE agreed in 2013 to submit permit documents, including a closure plan, for the eight areas to another Hanford regulator, the Washington Department of Ecology, within 120 days. DOE submitted the plan by the deadline, but EPA found the plan did not include important elements.
It did not have a detailed description of how the waste would be moved and disposed of, or how the eight sites would be decontaminated, according to the agreement. It also did not specify the time for closing each area.
DOE now is working with Ecology to amend the plan to include required information.
In a second violation alleged by EPA, DOE is accused of moving 136 drums of waste from an area covered by a permit for storing the waste to an area where waste storage had not been approved.
The 55-gallon drums were stored outside the Effluent Treatment Facility in central Hanford and held powder with radioactive and hazardous chemical contaminants removed from wastewater at the plant.
Because workers inside the treatment facility could be exposed to radiation from the containers, they were moved to a nearby area that was not authorized for storage, essentially creating a new storage area without applying for a permit, according to EPA.
The drums were moved on April 30, 2013, when discussions about proper waste storage were underway for the settlement agreement reached in June 2013.
An inspection in August 2013 found them to be outside approved storage areas, according to EPA.
EPA said in 2013 that handling of radioactive and hazardous waste could not be done too carefully and that strict compliance with requirements was the only acceptable path.
The latest agreement is “part of a continuing process of improving compliance and communication with DOE's regulators,” DOE said in a statement Wednesday. “We look forward to continued discussions with EPA on compliance and cleanup activities.”