Department of Energy Fined $115K By EPA for Asbestos Removal Violations at Decommissioned Hanford Nuclear Reservation

A nuclear production complex from the Manhattan Project era is embroiled in an asbestos removal controversy. The decommissioned Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State is under the direction of the United States Department of Energy is facing $115,000 in asbestos removal violations from the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

The Hanford Nuclear Reservation manufactured the plutonium used in the first nuclear bomb and the bomb that was dropped over Nagasaki during World War II.

Stemming from demolition work conducted by a third-party contractor at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation or Hanford Site, the allegations brought forward by the EPA include asbestos contaminating the site's soil, creating a brand new waste site that will require extensive decontamination work, and failing to properly label trucks carrying asbestos waste. The asbestos waste shipments were sent to the Environmental Restoration Disposal Facility.

According to the EPA, the heftiest portion of the $115,000 fine – $85,000 – is the result of not properly labeling the asbestos waste trucks, placing workers at the Environmental Restoration Disposal Facility assigned to unload the deadly debris in harm's way. If the trucks were designated properly, workers at the facility would have taken necessary precautions to ensure health and safety. Specifically, the allegations of asbestos violations surround demolition work conducted at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in 2009 and 2010.

Asbestos is a highly toxic, naturally-occurring set of minerals used widely in building materials and supplies. At Hanford, asbestos-containing products included cement asbestos board siding, paneling and components of a large water tower. When disturbed, asbestos particles can contaminate the air, leading to exposure. Classified as a carcinogen, exposure to asbestos particles can lead to asbestosis, lung caner and mesothelioma. Mesothelioma – a common diagnosis stemming from asbestos exposure – is a rare form of cancer with an exceptionally high lethality rate. Most with a mesothelioma cancer diagnosis die soon after the disease is discovered.

The Department of Energy has fifteen days to respond to the fines and allegations issued by the EPA.

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