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Some Hanford water cleanup moving faster than expected

Photo courtesy of CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company.

Cleanup of a hazardous chemical in the groundwater at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is going faster than expected.

Hexavalent chromium is the nasty stuff that made Erin Brockovich famous down in California. The chemical was used to inhibit rust in coolant water in Hanford’s reactors. But that water was dumped into the desert, and now the carcinogen is making its way toward the Columbia River in large groundwater plumes.

The Hanford contractor CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company has made its five pump-and-treat water plants more efficient over the last few years. So the company has removed about 500 pounds of hexavalent chromium already this fiscal year, says spokeswoman Dee Millikin. 

“It’s important to the Columbia River, it’s important to the aquatic life that’s in the Columbia River, and it’s a major success,” Millikin said.

Hexavalent chromium is so toxic it only takes about a grain of salt’s worth to contaminate 8 gallons of water above federal standards.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.