Two More Hanford Workers Smell Odors at a Tank Farm - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Two More Hanford Workers Smell Odors at a Tank Farm

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Two Hanford workers were evaluated Thursday after smelling abnormal odors at a tank farm. Two Hanford workers were evaluated Thursday after smelling abnormal odors at a tank farm.
 RICHLAND, WA - Two Hanford workers were evaluated Thursday after smelling abnormal odors at a tank farm. One worker reported symptoms and was sent to Kadlec Regional Medical Center and later released. The second was checked out on site and went back to work the same day. That now makes a total of 40 people reporting 'exposure' so far this year.

This comes on the heels of a big discussion Tuesday night among Hanford workers about chemical vapors. NBC Right Now also learned last week that exposure is not the word the Department of Energy is using. Federal officials are not arguing the symptoms don't exist, they're just saying the vapors don't exceed danger levels under OSHA guidelines.

"There have been tank farm vapor exposures that have gone on for years. So, every one that needs to have an evaluation, they will come through the clinic," said Site Occupational Medical Director Karen Phillips.

Just this year, 40 people have been sent for medical evaluations because of that. DOE said none of them exceeded unsafe levels and there is a standard protocol for tank farm exposures.

"The protocol has blood tests involved, there's urine testing, which includes things such as mercury levels, benzine, as well as function tests on the liver, kidneys," said Phillips.

"We've heard from the Department of Energy and the contractors that they don't think any exposure is happening. Well there's a lot of evidence to the contrary and the crowd tonight came in very strongly with lots of evidence, and oh yeah, there's lots of exposures," said the Executive Director of Hanford Challenge, Tom Carpenter.

The meeting focused on what is happening at the tank farms and what needs to be done to address the vapor issues. Using scuba tanks and masks for fresh air is considered the most effective way to avoid exposure but most workers don't like the equipment. It is hot and heavy and impairs vision and movement.

Treating the vapors before they get out is another idea.

"They can do that with something called a chemical scrubber. So, just like in a coal plant, you might have a scrubber to capture the coal dust. A chemical scrubber is there to, it's like a water softener for the air," said Carpenter.

A team from Savannah River National Lab is investigating the vapor issues right now. A report from them should be available later this year.

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