NEAR RICHLAND, Wash. - The Department of Energy celebrated the completion of a project designed to accelerate the cleanup of groundwater on the Hanford site Thursday.
The facility took about two years to complete and came in $40 million under budget.
200 West Pump and Treat Systems is expected to treat 25 billion gallons of water over the next 25 years and remove over 100,000 pounds of contaminants from the groundwater.
According to Hanford officials, 80 square miles of groundwater beneath the site are contaminated because of plutonium production and processing activities
"This is a major milestone for Hanford cleanup," said Department of Energy Richland Operations Office Manager Matt McCormick. "What we're doing with this facility is cleaning up the groundwater to meet drinking water standards and also making sure the contaminants at the central plateau of the Hanford site do not reach the Columbia River in the future.>
The facility will greatly increase how quickly the groundwater is being treated. Right now it can handle 2,500 gallons/minute with the potential of nearly 4,000 gallons.
They're cleaning up a number of chemicals, like Tech-99 and Nitrate.
"This facility really is a workhorse for figuring out how to deal with a lot of different contaminants in the appropriate ways to get to the standards to then we have clean water that can go back into the system," said EPA Office of Environmental Cleanup Director Dan Opalski.
The treatment facility was built, in part, with recycle materials. Translucent panels were used to reduce the need for interior lighting and more than 75% of construction waste was diverted from landfills.
"We're able to address or be consistent with some of our larger energy security goals and our desire to be more sustainable and to be more energy efficient so it really does help us in the bigger picture, too," said Tracy Mustin of the Department of Energy. "We can address the problem and also meet these larger objectives."
The building earned a Leadership for Energy and Environmental Design Gold Certification. It's a 'green' building, rated for things like water efficiency and energy cost savings.