Trustees Open 45-Day Public Comment Period on Draft Injury Assessment Plan for Natural Resources at Hanford NPL Sites, near Richland, Washington

Last edited 09/03/2020

Columbia River borders the Hanford site on the north and east Columbia River, shown here, borders the 586-square-mile Hanford Site in south-central Washington, on the east and north. Potential injuries caused by hazardous substances releases from the Hanford NPL sites to economically and culturally important fish species in the River will be studied in the Injury Assessment Plan. Photo credit: Draft Injury Assessment Plan.

On November 15, 2012, the federal, state and tribal natural resource trustees opened a 45-day public comment period on the draft “Hanford Natural Resource Damage Assessment Injury Assessment Plan” for the Hanford Nuclear Reservation NPL sites, northwest of Richland, Washington.

The natural resource trustees in this case include:

  • Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation;
  • Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation;
  • Nez Perce Tribe;
  • State of Oregon, represented by Oregon Department of Energy;
  • State of Washington, represented by Washington Department of Ecology in consultation with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife;
  • U.S. Department of Commerce, represented by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration;
  • U.S. Department of Energy; and,
  • U.S. Department of the Interior, represented by Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Hanford Nuclear Reservation was established by the United States in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project on 586 square miles of land in south-central Washington. Columbia River borders the Site on the east and north. During the production of materials for nuclear weapons, the Site produced large quantities of wastes containing hazardous substances and radioactive materials. These wastes were managed by storing them on land and releasing them to ponds and ditches.

Over time, these wastes containing hazardous substances leaked and were released to the land, air, groundwater and surface water, including Columbia River. A preliminary accounting of these hazardous substances include: a variety of metals and radioisotopes and organic compounds including solvents, pesticides and PCBs. In 1988, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency placed Hanford on the National Priorities List and created four separate NPL sites: the 100 Area, 200 Area, 300 Area and 1100 Area. Production activities at the Site stopped in 1989 and work shifted to cleanup of the contamination which will continue for decades.

The Hanford Site has unique terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems that support at least 725 plant species, 40 mammal species, over 200 bird species and a variety of amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates. Columbia River, which borders the Site, supports economically and culturally important fish species such as Chinook salmon, coho salmon, steelhead, white sturgeon and Pacific lamprey.

Potential injuries to these natural resources and associated natural resource services caused by hazardous substances releases are the focus of Injury Assessment Plan. This Draft Injury Assessment Plan represents the trustees’ current understanding of the studies necessary to determine and quantify the injuries.

Written comments on the Draft Injury Assessment Plan must be received by Washington Department of Ecology by Monday, December 31, 2012.

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