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Air quality oversight at Hanford

We issue a Hanford Air Operating Permit designed to protect air resources through enforcement of the Federal Clean Air Act and the Washington Clean Air Act.

Horn Rapids Road crosses through the Hanford site.

Federal and state agencies set air quality standards for outdoor air. The purpose of these standards is to prevent air pollution from reaching levels that harm human health. When an area does not meet an air quality standard, the state must develop a plan to clean up the air.

Ecology has the permitting authority for the site-wide Hanford Air Operating Permit (AOP), which incorporates underlying regulations from three agencies:

  • Ecology regulates the Hanford AOP as a whole, as well as non-radioactive toxic and criteria air emissions.
  • Washington State Department of Health regulates radioactive air emissions. 
  • Benton Clean Air Agency regulates asbestos and outdoor burning.
Photo of person examining filters at an air quality monitoring station. The structures that house the equipment are grey, metal structures that resemble small chicken coops.

Staff member changes filters and checks air monitoring equipment.

What does the AOP do to keep our air clean?

  • The AOP provides all of the air pollution control requirements that apply to the source (e.g., Hanford).
  • It makes the terms of the permit federally enforceable.
  • It requires the U.S. Dept. of Energy to issue regular reports on emissions tracking and the controls used to limit emissions.
  • Energy is required to certify that it meets the air requirements in the Hanford AOP.

Although we maintain the single umbrella air quality permit, we partner with the other agencies for enforcing air quality. The goal is to oversee that the state's residents and all wildlife are shielded from releases of radiation, asbestos, and toxic chemicals into the air.