Columbia River

The Columbia River is dubbed the life blood of the Pacific NW.  As such, people have a right to be concerned about whether contamination from Hanford soil or groundwater enters the Columbia River.  It does. However, because the river dilutes contamination so quickly, water in the vicinity of Hanford is well within the requirements of the Clean Water Act.

The Columbia River is monitored annually for a variety of chemical and radioactive contaminants by the Battelle Pacific NW National Lab, Washington State Department of Health and Ecology.  The 2005 Hanford Site Environmental Report summary describes the process and results:

River Sediment Study

In the past, Hanford reactors discharged directly to the Columbia river, and radiation could be found downstream all the way to the Oregon Coast.  That is no longer the case.  A study of Columbia River sediments was conducted in 2003. There are currently no sediment standards at the federal or state level, but scientists still wanted to determine what impact Hanford has had on Columbia River bottom sediments. Scientists from Battelle, Ecology, the Washington State Dept. of Health, and the Oregon Dept. of Energy tested for more than 50 contaminants, from radionuclide's to pesticides and metals. 

Sediment samples from the top of the river sediment as well as beach sands, where available, were collected from above the four lower Columbia River dams.  Samples were compared to sediment data previously gathered above Priest Rapids Dam.  Sampling upstream of Hanford helped scientists determine what contaminants most likely came from Hanford.  In addition to sediments and sands, river-water samples were collected above McNary Dam.  Sources of the contaminants may have been Hanford, but they also may have come from airborne releases, farming, or natural background sources.

Their findings are summarized below:

Freqently Asked Questions