Monday, April 1, 2013

College students crunch Hanford groundwater contaminant numbers

By Erika Holmes, Community Outreach & Environmental Education, Nuclear Waste Program

Ecology hydrogeologist Joe Caggiano working with Columbia Basin College students to analyze Hanford groundwater contamination data.
Over the last three months, Ecology's Nuclear Waste Program teamed up with statistics teacher Linda Rogers and her two classes at Columbia Basin College to analyze Hanford groundwater data. At Hanford, about 72 square miles of groundwater are contaminated above drinking water standards. One of Ecology’s top goals is to keep this contamination from reaching the Columbia River, an extremely important resource for the Northwest. To clean it up, we need consistent information about contaminant behavior to predict how contamination moves and make plans to intercept it.

Much of the groundwater contamination is the result of leaks or spills from Hanford’s 177 underground
Ecology chemist Mike Barnes working with Columbia Basin College students to analyze Hanford groundwater contamination data.
storage tanks that hold a total of 56 million gallons of radioactive and chemical waste. These tanks are organized into groups called tank farms, and Linda and her students’ work focuses on data from C Tank Farm in Hanford’s 200 East Area. Using groundwater sampling data spanning from the 1980s through today, we asked this group to establish movement trends for three groundwater contaminants beneath C Tank Farm: nitrate, sulfate, technetium-99.

The work of Linda and her students adds valuable input to Hanford cleanup and is a great service to our community. We plan to share their findings with the U.S. Department of Energy, their tank farm contractor, and the public. Stay tuned, as we’ll be posting more about this project as the reports are finalized …

For more photos of this project, please see our Columbia Basin College, Hanford Groundwater Statistics Project album on Ecology’s Hanford Education & Outreach Facebook page. "Liking" this Facebook page is an easy way to keep up with Hanford news and events!

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