Washington

November 26, 2013

Hanford nuclear site clean-up: The mess gets worse

Source: http://investigations.nbcnews.com, November 18, 2013
By: Rebecca LaFlure, The Center for Public Integrity

The government’s multi-billion-dollar effort to clean up the nation’s largest nuclear dump has become its own dysfunctional mess.

For more than two decades, the government has worked to dispose of 56 million gallons of nuclear and chemical waste in underground, leak-prone tanks at the Hanford nuclear site in Washington State.

But progress has been slow, the project’s budget is rising by billions of dollars, and a long-running technical dispute has sown ill will between the project’s senior engineering staff, the Energy Department, and its lead contractors.

The waste is a legacy of the Cold War, when the site housed nuclear reactors churning out radioactive plutonium for thousands of atomic bombs. To clean up the mess, the Department of Energy (DOE) started building a factory 12 years ago to encase the nuclear leftovers in stable glass for long-term storage.

But today, construction of the factory is only two-thirds complete after billions of dollars in spending, leaving partially constructed buildings and heavy machinery scattered across the 65-acre site, a short distance from the Columbia River.

Technical personnel have expressed concerns about the plant’s ability to operate safely, and say the government and its contractor have tried to discredit them, and in some cases harassed and punished them. Experts also say that some of the tanks have already leaked radioactive waste into the groundwater below, and worry that the contamination is now making its way to the river, a major regional source of drinking water.…

November 22, 2013

Environmental complaint added to lawsuit against Port of Vancouver

Source: The Columbian (WA), November 19, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

Three environmental groups that sued the Port of Vancouver alleging its approval of a lease for an oil transfer facility violated state open public meetings law have broadened their lawsuit to charge the port also violated state environmental laws.

In their updated complaint, originally filed on Oct. 2 in Clark County Superior Court, Columbia Riverkeeper, Sierra Club and Northwest Environmental Defense Center charge the port failed to follow the state’s Environmental Policy Act. The port’s failure is partly because it approved the lease before completing an environmental impact statement, the groups say in court documents.

The port denies all of the accusations. It says a state agency — not the port — is conducting the oil project’s environmental examination. It also says the open public meetings charges have little or no practical value because the port held a second public hearing and took a new vote on the lease.

The fresh jousting in court between the port and the environmental groups represents yet another development in the ongoing public strife over the proposal by Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies to build an oil-by-rail transfer terminal at the port.

The $110 million project would be the largest such facility in the Northwest, capable of handling as much as 380,000 barrels of crude per day to be shipped to refineries. The lease involves 42 acres and is worth at least $45 million to the port over an initial 10 years.…

August 13, 2013

'Mystery' of 3 deaths in same hotel room traced: Carbon monoxide

Source: http://www.cnn.com, June 11, 2013
By: Monte Plott

For a time, it had the makings of a mountain mystery. Three deaths — first an elderly couple then, weeks later, an 11-year-old boy — in the same hotel room with the same immediate response from authorities: cause of death undetermined.

When the third death — that of a South Carolina youth visiting Boone with his mother — made news over the weekend in a Charlotte Observer story (“Mystery surrounds Boone motel deaths,”) it brought on reader comments punctuated with words such as “terrifying,” “bizarre,” “really weird,” “incredibly creepy.”

“Bates Motel in Boone?” offered one reader.

In this town where the old ways of the mist-shrouded North Carolina mountains still abide alongside massive multi-million-dollar developments, a booming tourism industry and a lynchpin university complex at Appalachian State, the deaths in Room 225 at the Best Western Plus Blue Ridge Plaza hotel were indeed enough to get people talking.

Not so much in the realm of the unknown, however. More in the spirit of there’s-got-to-be-an-explanation — and with genuine mountain sympathy for the victims and their families.

“If it’s the same (cause for all three deaths), this is ridiculous,” Betty Austin, owner of the Mountain House restaurant near the hotel, told CNN Monday.…

June 14, 2013

Environmental Groups Sue Over Coal Pollution

Source: Hood River News, June 11, 2013
By: Ben Mitchell

Last week, several environmental groups made good on their promise from earlier this spring to sue BNSF railroad and a handful of coal export companies for allegedly continuing to pollute a litany of Gorge waterways with coal they say is coming from improperly loaded railcars.

The civil suit, which names the Sierra Club as the lead plaintiff, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle on June 4 and is a follow-up to a 60-day notice of intent to sue that was sent out by the same environmental groups April 2.

It alleges that BNSF and five coal export companies have repeatedly violated the Federal Water Pollution Control Act for years (commonly referred to as the Clean Water Act) by allowing coal chunks and dust to escape uncovered railcars during transport and pollute the land and water along BNSF rail lines. Defendants are accused of not having obtained a federal permit allowing the discharges of coal pollutants into U.S. waters, which lawyers for the plaintiffs claim is a moot point since these types of discharges “are not permitted under federal law.”

The coal in question is primarily extracted from massive Powder River Basin mines in Wyoming and Montana and then shipped on BNSF railroads — one of which winds right along the Columbian River on the Washington side of the Gorge — before arriving at a British Columbian coal terminal in Vancouver for export to Asian markets. The commodity is also shipped to Centralia where it is used in a coal-fired power plant.…

April 23, 2013

More Mercury Found at WA site

Read here about costs that are mounting at an old mill site in Bellingham, WA as a result of more mercury being found than expected.

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March 29, 2013

Agreement reached on Port Gamble Bay cleanup

Source: Kitsap Sun (Bremerton, WA), March 23, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

Breaking their weeks-long impasse, the Washington Department of Ecology and Pope Resources have agreed on a $17-million cleanup plan for Port Gamble Bay.

The agreement, to be spelled out in a legally binding consent decree, ensures that Ecology will provide $2 million toward the purchase and protection of 83 acres of tidelands and 470 acres of uplands along the western shoreline of Port Gamble Bay.

The agreement will allow Pope Resources to keep two docks at the south end of the former Pope & Talbot sawmill site until 2015. The company had been seeking to keep the docks in place until a new one could be approved at the north end of the property.

No agreement was reached for settling natural resource damage claims to be paid by Pope Resources. That raises questions about whether plans can move forward to use Ecology funds to purchase additional property on the mill site, where an educational and research center had been proposed.

“Thanks to the hard work of Ecology staff, Pope Resources, and a number of people and organizations, this agreement represents a major milestone in the cleanup of Port Gamble Bay,” said Ecology Director Maia Bellon in a prepared statement.

“This project will benefit the environment by restoring and protecting the bay’s health; will benefit the economy by allowing for the restoration of shellfish harvesting; and will benefit the quality of life for Washington citizens and visitors who enjoy the bay and its surrounding environment,” she said.

David Nunes, Pope Resources’ President and CEO, thanked Bellon for stepping in to work out an equitable resolution, starting from her first day in office.…

February 28, 2013

OR Tank Leaks Lead to Investigation

Read here about an investigation into leaking underground waste tanks that has been launched by an Oregon Senator.

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January 14, 2013

Cleanup continues at Handford site

Read here about cleanup that continues at the Hanford site in Washington even as Governor steps down.

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December 21, 2012

Judge Holds Canadian Co. Teck Resources Liable for Cleanup Costs Under EPA Superfund Law

Source: http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com, December 19, 2012
By: Jack McNeel

U.S. District Court is holding a British Columbia, Canada, mining company liable for cleanup costs under the Superfund law for polluting the Columbia River, which borders the Colville Indian Reservation—the first time that a foreign company has been subjected to the U.S. law.

The Canada-based Teck Metals Ltd. had admitted culpability for the pollution in October but had argued that it did not fall under the jurisdiction of the Superfund law because it was not a U.S. company. The case could have implications for businesses operating on both the U.S. and Canadian sides of the border, the Globe and Mail reported.

“Teck knew its disposal of hazardous waste into the river was likely to cause harm,” wrote U.S. District Judge Lonny Suko in the decision. “It was told by the Canadian government that its slag was toxic to fish and leached hazardous metals.”

The Federated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, which first brought suit against Teck in 2006, expressed satisfaction with the December 14 ruling.

“Today’s court ruling has great meaning for our tribes,” said Colville Tribal Chairman John Sirois in a statement. “This river is the heart of our people. It has always been and will always be our homeland, and damages to our natural resources must be addressed.”

Teck Metals operates a massive lead and zinc smelter about 10 miles from the U.S. border in Trail, British Columbia. The company has routinely dumped smelter residues into the Columbia River, which flows through Washington and into Lake Roosevelt, forming the eastern and southern borders of the Colville Reservation. Suko found Teck Metals liable under the Comprehensive, Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, the formal name for the Superfund law), dismissing arguments from Teck that such a move interferes with Canadian and provincial sovereignty, according to the Spokesman-Review.…

October 6, 2011

Superfund Site Cleanup to Begin in Seattle

Read here about cleanup work that is set to begin on a Seattle site, the Duwamish River, ten years after being listed as a Superfund site.…