Hanford Site Facility's 20th Anniversary marks career milestone - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Hanford Site Facility's 20th Anniversary marks career milestone for Engineer

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RICHLAND, WA – Engineer Mike Casbon has watched the Environmental Restoration Disposal Facility (ERDF) grow up.

He helped create the low-level waste disposal facility for EM’s cleanup operations at the Hanford Site, joining the team working on its conceptual design in April 1993. He was the ERDF field engineer when the facility took its first steps, accepting its first truckload of waste on July 1, 1996. And, now, he is proudly celebrating its 20th anniversary, as it has grown to become one of EM’s largest disposal facilities, containing 18 million tons of contaminated soil, debris and solid wastes.

“I have been very blessed to be on this project,” said Casbon, now the resident engineer for EM Richland Operations Office contractor Washington Closure Hanford, which currently operates ERDF. “It’s been a fun and productive project.”

Working with his colleagues over the years has been a highlight for him. He brought his experience as a mining engineer, working in a highly regulated environment, to the conceptual design effort, but he admits he had much to learn about the challenges at Hanford.  

“I knew nothing about working with radioactive materials. But I was part of a small and dedicated team that relied on each other. Other people on the team were experts on that. It was a great learning opportunity” he said.

Casbon cited the importance of open, candid and collaborative relationships with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ERDF’s regulator, and EM.

Casbon has enjoyed watching ERDF’s “maturation,” as he described it. 

Within six months of operation, the facility was receiving 90 truckloads — at approximately 20 tons each — of waste material a day, meeting initial planning estimates. By 2005, the daily average was around 160 truckloads with single-day peaks of 200 truckloads.  

Using American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, a major expansion in 2009-2011 provided for new support buildings, equipment and additional labor, which increased the facility’s capacity and efficiency. ERDF hit a peak of more than 800 truckloads in a single day in 2012.

”Watching the operation safely and compliantly dispose of over 18,000 tons per day using three different truck fleets was like watching a three-ring circus. It was amazingly busy while being well under control,” Casbon said.