USGS Washington Water Science Center
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Located on 586 square miles in southeastern Washington, the U.S. Department of Energy's (USDOE) Hanford Site was established during World War II as part of the Manhattan Project to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. As a result of plutonium processing and operation of nine nuclear reactors, large volumes of liquid wastes have been generated and discharged to the ground.
The USDOE operates a long-term ground-water monitoring program for selected radionuclide and inorganic constituents, and sampling has detected hazardous constituents in excess of EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) maximum contaminant levels. To assist EPA in its oversight of cleanup of the 78 operable units on the Hanford Site, the USGS is providing technical expertise in hydrology, geology, and ecology.
The USGS participates in planning meetings with representatives of the EPA, USDOE, and their contractors to discuss scientific approaches for addressing site characterization and ecological risk assessment needs. The USGS reviews and comments on technical documents related to characterization and remediation, concentrating on sections pertaining to geologic and hydrologic characterization and ecological risk. The USGS meets with representatives of the EPA, USDOE, and their contractors to discuss and resolve disputes on the technical approach and execution of the investigations. The USGS provides technical assistance related to issues of site-wide modeling, and other activities as requested by EPA.