Our Voice: Washington Closure a Hanford success

On time and under budget.

Let’s face it, those are not words typically associated with cleanup work at Hanford.

But Washington Closure Hanford has managed to accomplish the extraordinary: It met its deadline and saved money in the process.

By the end of this month, Washington Closure’s role in removing deadly contaminants from the Columbia River Corridor will be considered complete, and company officials say they achieved their goal of $320 million below estimated costs. That savings freed up money that then was used for additional cleanup projects.

This is exactly the kind of success story Hanford and the community needs.

The significance of this achievement is two-fold. The Columbia River is officially now more protected than ever before from the deadly waste left over from plutonium production during World War II, and this triumph sends a message that cleanup money for Hanford was well spent.

During the Manhattan Project and Cold War, reactors built at Hanford produced plutonium for the nation’s defense program. These, along with a large industrial and research area just north of Richland, generated tons of radioactive and hazardous waste that was disposed of in burial grounds and waste trenches.

Many of those waste sites and contaminated facilities were within a few hundred yards of the river, so cleaning up this particular piece of land was critical.

Washington Closure was selected by the Department of Energy to manage the job, and took over the 220-square-mile river corridor cleanup operation in August 2005. It turns out DOE picked the right contractor.

The work was done in stages. It included tearing down 324 buildings, cleaning up 576 waste sites and burial grounds, cocooning two Hanford production reactors and hauling nearly 12 million tons of debris and contaminated soil to the Environmental Restoration Disposal Facility, which is the on-site, lined landfill for all Hanford contractors.

And this was accomplished with an exemplary employee safety record — one of the best in the DOE complex.

Washington Closure also met 100 percent of its regulatory milestones either on time or ahead of schedule, and it boosted small businesses in the community by awarding over $1 billion in subcontracts.

Another significant achievement is that, by helping clean up the river corridor, Washington Closure allowed the property to become accessible to the public, paving the way so the Manhattan Project National Historical Park could become a reality.

The elimination of these radioactive and chemical contaminants from this part of the Hanford complex is, frankly, monumental.

The $2.9 billion job would have ended in September 2015, with over 90 percent of its work finished, but the 10-year contract was extended a year so the company could continue work on two particularly challenging projects.

Those were the cleanup of the 324 Building and the highly hazardous 618-10 Burial Ground. Both of those projects have been transferred to CH2M Hill, which also will take over management of the landfill.

Now that these tasks have been handed off, Washington Closure will have a reduced staff tying up loose ends, preparing documents and closing out its contract.

Managing to finish its assigned task of completing most of the cleanup of the river corridor on time and with money to spare is a staggering accomplishment, and we will be sad to say goodbye to a great community partner.

To Washington Closure, we say thank you — you did a heckuva job