Six more Hanford workers experienced respiratory problems and headaches Monday morning after being exposed to unknown chemical vapors, bringing the total number of employees who’ve fallen ill from sudden exposure to potentially harmful vapors to 24 since March 19.
All but four of those affected work for Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS), the company that has a contract with the U.S. Department of Energy to run the entire tank farm operation at Hanford where 56 million gallons of radioactive and toxic waste are stored.
Workers who were exposed to chemical vapors over the past two weeks complain of sore throats, headaches, difficulty breathing and tremors. Despite continued symptoms, all 24 of the workers have been “released to return to work” by the Hanford on-site medical facility, according to WRPS officials.
At a news conference in Olympia Monday about a different Hanford issue, Gov. Jay Inslee weighed in on the rash of sick workers in March.
“I have real concerns about this. We have not had the full definitive briefing on what has happened on this, but obviously when Washingtonians are having trouble breathing at a work site controlled by the federal government, we're very, very concerned," said Inslee.
WRPS officials on Monday issued the following statement on the latest incident:
Late this morning, six Washington River Protection Solution (WRPS) workers were sent to the Hanford Site medical provider for evaluation after experiencing chemical vapors-related symptoms. All six were released to return to work.
The workers were not in one of Hanford’s tank farms. They were working in the 200-West Area near the SY Tank Farm when they smelled a chemical odor. The workers reported throat and nasal irritation and headaches. As a precaution, WRPS management requested the workers receive a medical evaluation.
Air samples collected by industrial hygiene technicians are being analyzed. Further efforts will be made to determine the potential source of the vapors.