ERDF Over Seven Million Tons Disposed - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

ERDF Over Seven Million Tons Disposed

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RICHLAND, Wash.- Another million tons of waste is safe in hanford's waste disposal site.

Much of that waste is contaminated soil the Energy Department is moving from ground dangerously close to the river, inland to the Environmental Restoration and Disposal Facility where it is contained.

Monday, DOE clicked across the seven million ton mark on waste now safely contained in that landfill.

"It allows us to get contamination away from the river that might cause groundwater problems, so it really is a critical piece of the hanford cleanup," said Nick Ceto with EPA.

ERDF is now home to more than seven million tons of Hanford's radioactive waste.  That's almost 39,000 truckloads dumped into the six 70-foot deep pits spread across an area the size of almost 28 football fields.

"Trucks bring in the orange containers, dumping the waste, our bulldozers spreading it and compacting it," said Bruce Covert with Washington Closure Hanford.

The waste comes from years of work cleaning up contaminated dirt near the Columbia River and contaminated buildings that once housed nuclear operations.  Those buildings are now coming down, and their remnants going to ERDF.

"We're talking about concrete, buildings, we're talking, uh, about soils, dirt that kind of materials," said Joe Franco with DOE.

Some of that dirt was dangerously close to the Columbia River.

"You know, without getting erdf to be a sound operation, and without recognizing that that's an important component of cleanup, we're not going to have a successful hanford cleanup," Ceto said. 

Now, ERDF looks to expand.  Plans to open the seventh cell are in the works, along with three more new cells that'll be built.

The work hasn't come without controversy.  Earlier this year, improper operation of a protective liner at ERDF forced EPA to issue the biggest fine in the history of the Hanford site.  EPA now says those problems have been fixed and DOE is working to pay it off through other cleanup work.