RICHLAND, Wash. -- The Federal EPA is not satisfied with how Washington state is inspecting work at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
A draft EPA report acquired by the watchdog group Hanford Challenge shows the EPA accuses the Washington Department of Ecology of not meeting inspection standards. The report said the Department of Ecology does not perform enough inspections, gives too much notice of when they are planning inspections, and fails to inspect some of Hanford's most dangerous nuclear facilities.
Hanford is home to 56 million gallons of radioactive waste leftover from the production of nuclear bombs during World War II and the Cold War. The waste is stored inside underground tanks that are long past their expected life. Several have leaked in the past and at least six single-shell tanks are considered current leakers. One double-shell tank is confirmed to be leaking. The double-shell tanks are newer and were expected to safely contain the toxic sludge until technology to permanently treat and stabilize the liquid waste is developed. The double-shell tank, Tank AY-102, has been at the center of a KING 5 investigation which exposed the federal government's contractor in charge of the tank farms looked the other way for a year while evidence of the leak rolled in.
Hanford Challenge representatives said the EPA report showed the state needs to "step up its game at Hanford" and get tougher with the Federal Department of Energy and its contractors carrying out the clean up.
State ecology officials told KING 5 it agrees it needs to do more inspections and is attempting to get funding to hire two more. But it rejects accusations it is not tough enough.
John Price of Ecology's Nuclear Waste Program said it doesn't have large numbers of enforcement actions at Hanford because it tries first to get the Department of Energy to voluntarily comply and it usually does.
On Wednesday, the newly sworn-in Ernest Moniz will make his first visit to Hanford as Secretary of Energy.
The following is a statement released by EPA spokesman Mark A. MacIntyre:
“The State Review Framework is a tool used to assess state enforcement of the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and hazardous waste laws, when they are “delegated” to that state for implementation. The SRF is undertaken every four years for each state-delegated program.
The State Review Framework was designed collaboratively in 2004 by EPA and the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS). EPA works in partnership with each state to create a final SRF report. These SRF reports allow EPA to identify recommendations for improvement to ensure fair and consistent enforcement and compliance programs across the states.
In terms of chronology, EPA sent our draft SRF report to Ecology on April 30, 2013. We received their response on June 14, 2013. At this time we are still reviewing their response. We will issue a final report later this year.”
For more about the State Review Framework: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/state/srf/