Protecting the air and water at Hanford

After 45 years of plutonium production for World War II and the Cold War, large amounts of radioactive and hazardous waste remains at Hanford. Cleanup efforts began at the Hanford site with the goal of undoing the damage caused to the environment during that time.

Monitoring air and water, and preventing the spread of contamination are among our highest priorities. All of the cleanup activities we regulate at Hanford must follow legal requirements under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and/or the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).

Measuring air and groundwater quality

While plutonium is no longer produced at Hanford, we continue to measure air quality to ensure that it is safe for those who live and work in the area. We follow federal and state air quality standards for outdoor air to prevent air pollution from reaching levels that are harmful to human health.
A bird house is hung from a tank farm fence to provide habitat for native birds.

When emissions don't meet standards, we take corrective actions to bring them into compliance.

Ecology, the Washington Dept. of Health, EPA, tribes, and local clean air agencies maintain a network of air monitoring stations around the state to measure air pollution. Air quality is measured at facilities that have air handling systems, in the tank farms, and at cleanup sites.

During plutonium production years at Hanford, the most hazardous liquid wastes were pumped into 177 underground waste storage tanks. About one million gallons of toxic and radioactive waste has leaked from tanks on the site.

Above-ground pump lines feed treated water back into the ground. 
The remainder of the waste, an estimated 440 billion gallons of contaminated liquid, was dumped into the soil, trenches and ditches, and pumped into injection wells that sent it directly back into the soil.

About 1,300 wells at Hanford are used to track the intensity and movement of various contaminants in the water. Wells are tested every year throughout the Hanford site.