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Originally published June 25, 2013 at 8:56 PM | Page modified June 26, 2013 at 6:17 AM

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Hanford waste-handling company reports contamination

Elevated levels of radioactive contamination were found last week at a Richland facility that treats and manages wastes from Hanford nuclear reservation, according to a letter from the waste contractor to the state.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Elevated levels of radioactive contamination were found June 19 at a Richland facility that treats and manages wastes from the Hanford nuclear reservation, according to a letter from the waste contractor to the Washington state Department of Ecology.

“In accordance with our radiological emergency procedures, the areas were quarantined, monitored and decontaminated,” wrote Richard Grondin, vice president of Perma-Fix Northwest, the contractor that operates a 35-acre facility near the Hanford site.

Grondin, in his letter, said that no workers were exposed to dangerous wastes.

Tom Carpenter, executive director of the watchdog group Hanford Challenge, said “there are numerous questions to be answered” about the incident. He called on the federal Environmental Protection Agency and state government to investigate the recent incident and ensure waste is “properly characterized, packaged, transported and treated to adequately protect public health and the environment.

Perma-Fix’s Grondin could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

Donn Moyer, a state Department of Health spokesman, said the contamination was not typical, and shouldn’t have been there. But he said there was no evidence of any contamination on the outside of the container, where it could have posed a risk as it was hauled along a public highway.

Geoff Tyree, a federal Energy Department spokesman at Hanford, said that shipments are made safely and that there hasn’t been an accident involving the shipment of waste to and from the Perma-Fix Northwest facility.

Hanford Challenge this week also released records the organization obtained under a state Public Records Act request that detail state Department of Ecology concerns about how these wastes are handled.

Those records include a 105-page Department of Ecology PowerPoint presentation that listed concerns about how the wastes are designated and stored at Hanford, and prepared for transport to the Perma-Fix site.

John Price, a Department of Ecology official, on Tuesday declined to comment on the report because the inspection was still not complete.

Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581 or hbernton@seattletimes.com

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