RICHLAND, Wash. -- NBC Right Now has obtained new information on groundwater contaminants underneath a portion of the Hanford Site.
Discovered by students, the research answers a long debated question about how contamination is moving beneath "C" Tank Farm and the possible sources of different contaminants.
"It was always thought the nitrate and sulfate stuff came out of the tank. It appears it didn't," said CBC Statistics Teacher Linda Rogers.
The results are compelling.
After crunching more than 100 pages of data over 11 weeks, students in Linda Rogers' Introductory Statistics class at Columbia Basin College discovered that the groundwater below Hanford's "C" Tank Farm is contaminated, but some of that contamination likely did not come from leaking tanks.
"We didn't know if it was the tanks leaking or if it was a pipe going into the tank leaking or if it was coming from an outside source, but by doing the analyzing we were discovering it was a possibility that they were coming from somewhere else," said Treana Meginnis, who analyzed the groundwater data.
"It was always thought that the nitrate came out of the tank. It appears it didn't. It's outside sources. So that's something new."
The students also learned that the flow of groundwater beneath the "C" Tank Farm has changed direction, and now flows toward the Columbia River.
Rogers says this new discovery "actually has to do with the fact that the water level is going down and they're not pouring a bunch of liquid waste in there so it's going back to its original direction which is east."
Rogers says a statistical analysis of this kind has never been done before and she's proud of her students for uncovering this new information that the Department of Ecology and the Department of Energy can expand on.
"The water beneath "C" Tank Farm if you were to just drink it straight from beneath tank farm then yes there would be some issues, but as far as environmental right now, they've got it contained within the water beneath the farms," said Elena Marshall, who analyzed the groundwater data.
The Hanford Groundwater Analysis Project is a collaboration between Columbia Basin College and the Department of Ecology.
Rogers says the class was selected for the project because the students were able to provide the Department of Ecology with unbiased analysis.