$2.9M Hanford contract awarded to Colorado firm

This story was published January 15, 2009
By Annette Cary, Herald staff writer

Washington Closure Hanford has given a cleanup subcontract worth $2.9 million to Foothills Environmental Inc., a small, Hispanic-owned business in Golden, Colo.

Washington Closure recently selected Foothills Environmental to be part of its mentor-protege program, a Department of Energy initiative to increase the federal work done by small and disadvantaged businesses by teaming them with DOE contractors.

Foothills Environmental will be responsible for cleaning up seven waste sites near Hanford's B and C reactors.

Work will start later this winter and should be completed by mid-September.

Foothills Environmental has subcontracted a lot of the field work to Federal Engineers and Constructors of Richland, according to Washington Closure.

The waste sites have contaminated soil, piping and some debris left on the ground. The sites have some radioactive contamination, but most of the contamination is from hazardous chemicals.

One site includes a half-mile of piping that may have leaked chromium into the soil. The chemical was used during reactor operations to prevent pipe corrosion.

It can cause cancer in humans and is harmful to fish in the nearby Columbia River in much smaller doses.

Another of the waste sites includes soil that may be contaminated with chromium as far down as 48 feet. That will require excavation far deeper than is usual for Hanford waste sites, according to Washington Closure.

Debris and contaminated soil will be hauled to the Environmental Restoration Disposal Facility, a landfill for low-level radioactive waste in central Hanford.

A year ago, Hanford workers finished digging up and hauling off more than 600,000 tons of radioactively and chemically contaminated debris and soil from 39 burial grounds and waste sites near the B and C reactors. They were used during World War II and the Cold War when the reactors were producing plutonium for the nation's nuclear weapons program.

The seven sites assigned to Foothills Environmental are relatively small in comparison.

In addition to them, six other sites at the B and C reactors still must be cleaned up. Because of the depth of chromium contamination at one of the remaining sites, digging up the soil will not be practical. Instead, the contamination will have to be treated in place in the soil.