Department of Health releases letter of concern for contamination events following PFP demolition

2-1-18 UPDATE:

RICHLAND, WA - Today we spoke to the Department of Health regarding their recent letter of concern for contamination sent to the Department of Energy.

In the letter, the DOH makes a long list of request to the DOE. Their concern is towards the demolition of the Plutonium Finishing Plant's contamination of radioactivity that could potentially spread if it is not taken care of correctly. Now, recent events have led to cars and even workers being affected by the contamination from the PFP.

This results in the first-ever letter from the DOH's Environmental Public Health to the DOE.

"We want to stop the contamination spread before it spreads off the Hanford Site and it gets into the public arena," said John Martell, manager of the Radioactive Air Emission Section. "That was the reason for the letter. To make sure that the attention was given to it so that we make sure we have controls in place that will keep it from being a public health concern."

The DOH does not have direct authority over the cleanup of the PFP, but they are working with the Department of Ecology and the Environmental Protection Agency, departments that do have authority to ensure that all controls and procedures are followed.

There is no risk to the public safety, but DOH does want to make sure that the contamination stops at the Hanford Site.

In the letter sent to the DOE, a public access point was mentioned following the demolition of the PFP. The location mentioned is Highway 240 that goes through the Hanford Site, the closest the public can get to the area. In the letter, air samples were taken and elevated concentrations of americium were found, a little over three times the emission standards of hazardous air pollutants. According to the DOE, someone would have to be in the area for 265 days a year, 24 hours a day for the person to exceed the ambient air standard.

"Even at that level, there isn't somebody there all the time," Martell said. "Even at that level there isn't a public health threat, but it's reaching a level that we are paying attention to. We want to make sure that any spread of contamination is stopped and that it doesn't occur."

Samples are taken using an instrument called a cookie sheet. This is a metal sheet that is left out for a certain amount of time. Then the sheet is collected and wiped down with a special cloth. That cloth is sent to a lab and analyzed to determine the type of chemicals that can be found in the area during the time period.

The DOH is still collecting samples, and has 5 cookie sheets throughout the area to obtain further information.


1-31-18 UPDATE:

RICHLAND, WA - The Department of Health sent a letter to the Department of Energy about the spread of radioactive contamination released in the air at the Hanford Site last year.

The DOH states that although there were no off levels indicating a public health risk. They are concerned that if work were to continue without better control, then a risk can develop.

The DOH also requested a long list of information that includes things like boundary maps, winds, along with other data collected at the PFP. All the information must be presented by March 29.

This is the first time the DOH's environmental public health division has sent a letter to the DOE.



RICHLAND, WA - The Washington Department of Health released a letter to the Department of Energy, regarding their concerns over the spread of radioactive contamination released to the air and the environment during Plutonium Finishing Plant (PFP) demolition activities.

The Department of Health states: "We have been taking air samples at various locations on the Hanford Site, as well as off the Hanford Site. While we have seen elevated results, there have been no off site levels indicating a threat to public health. However, we are concerned if work resumes without better controls, a risk to the public may develop."

To read the official letter, view the pictures attached to this article.

Recommended for you