Tri-Cities

Hanford Nuclear Reservation: Big problems at nation's #1 dump, but stimulus funds speed cleanup

Maybe it was the post-Earth Day glow, or perhaps the prospect of a long-delayed vacation. But today when I and colleagues from the Society of Environmental Journalists visited the most contaminated site in North America, Hanford Nuclear Reservation, I was surprised by the amount of progress that has been made on cleanup.

Now, there's no doubt that Hanford is still a mess. The project is starting to look like it will cost roughly twice as much and take roughly twice as long as originally estimated, as Karen Dorn Steele established on our tour. There's been no shortage of screwups and missteps in the cleanup process. Radioactive waste is leaking into the only part of the Columbia River that still flows naturally, onto the spawning grounds for that so-very-rare commodity on the Columbia, a healthy salmon run.

And, of course, there’s the seemingly never-ending quest to build what has begun to sound like a figment of someone’s imagination: A plant that encases the worst of the wastes in a glass-like substance for longterm storage. Now it’s supposed to be done in 2019. I’ll believe it when I see it.

People going hungry in WA's farm belt

We believe this qualifies as true irony: More than 10 percent of the people living in one of the country's richest farm belts don't know where their next meal is coming from. Ingrid Stegemoeller of Washington's Tri-City Herald writes that the food stamp program in the area -- near a lot of farms as well as the Hanford Nuclear Reservation -- is now allowing food-stamp recipients to spend their coupons at farmer's markets. The story is ostensibly about the food-stamp program but provides a good overall look at the need in Benton and Franklin counties in south-central Washington.