Fed Audit Finds Hanford Cleanup Not Working

According to a federal audit released yesterday, efforts to clean up the contaminated groundwater around the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southern Washington state have basically sucked — “largely ineffective” was the report’s more delicate phrase. Thus far the Department of Energy has spent $85 million attempting to clean the groundwater, including $8 million a year on its pump-and-treat system, which pulls groundwater out of the ground, runs it through filters, and puts it back. But the thing doesn’t work, and according to the audit, the DOE knows it doesn’t work, but isn’t doing much to find alternative methods. Meanwhile, polluted water is draining into the Columbia River, where it could harm juvenile salmon. Acting on the venerable “the first thing to do when you find yourself in a hole is stop digging” theory, the report recommends that DOE shut down current treatments, establish concrete goals, and try some new technologies.