Office of Environmental Management

New Treatment Approach Could Accelerate Groundwater Cleanup at Hanford

September 10, 2019

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A new treatment approach designed to expedite removal of residual chromium deep in the ground near the Columbia River is showing promise at the Hanford Site.
A new treatment approach designed to expedite removal of residual chromium deep in the ground near the Columbia River is showing promise at the Hanford Site.

RICHLAND, Wash. - A new treatment approach designed to expedite removal of residual chromium deep in the ground near the Columbia River is showing promise at the Hanford Site. In the first phase of a study earlier this summer, pictured here, workers with EM Richland Operations Office contractor CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company saturated about one acre of the desert near two former nuclear reactors with water. Drenching the soil potentially does in several weeks what it takes nature decades to do in a climate that only receives an average of seven inches of precipitation each year: drive residual contamination in the soil column downward to extraction wells in the underlying groundwater. The wells pumped the contaminated groundwater to a nearby treatment facility that removed approximately 18 pounds of chromium. In the next phase of the study, to begin in mid-September and continue for two months, technicians will inject more than 8 million gallons into the leach field to test and validate the process a second time. If the results show the approach is successful, the system may be implemented at other areas along the Columbia River. The chromium contamination resulted from decades of adding an anti-corrosion chemical, sodium dichromate, to cooling water used in Hanford’s plutonium product reactors.