Hanford workers meet to find safety solution

Hanford workers meet to find safety solution »Play Video
RICHLAND, Wash. -- Hanford tank farm workers met Wednesday night in Richland to discuss chemical vapors. There have been 38 exposures since March. Workers call it an epidemic. With little they say being done by their bosses, they're banding together looking for solutions to stay safe.

"Everybody is exposed when they are out there; the question is who is over exposed," said “Rick”, a man who only wanted to be identified as a former Hanford worker. When it comes to chemical vapors out at Hanford, you either believe they're not there as action news was told last week, or you’re a worker.

“I don't have mass hysteria and I don't know of any mental illness that would cause all of these people over this large period of time…to have these terrible things. We know it's happening, they know it's happening," said David Patrick, a Hanford worker.

The question isn't if it's happening, or at least not at Wednesday's meeting, because everyone agrees it is. The question posed to this group, is how do workers combat it.

“How many people can smell Dimethylmercury? it's odorless," asked and answered “Rick.” More than 40 workers, some former and many current, filled a room at the Richland Community Center. The meeting was hosted by Hanford Challenge, and facilitated by Mike Geffre. Action News has introduced Geffre to you before, he’s a former Hanford employee and whistle blower who hasn't left his colleagues side.

"I hear a lot of anxiety in their voices, they're concerned because some of the chemicals you can't smell, they don’t know they're there and they're very deadly,” said Geffre. “They're concerned that they're being exposed and they don't even know."

Part of the know, came from a man Action News will only identify as Rick. Rick said he still fears retaliation, despite quitting his job because he was in charge of samples; samples he knew weren't accurate.

"They're sitting out there…on the patio, unstored, unchecked, unregulated," he said. Yet those samples, he said, were used to clear areas as safe. “We need a third party watching the sampling."

The same, he said, goes for after exposure tests. With vapor levels leaving the system in a matter of minutes, workers need to be tested on the spot, not hours later at a hospital.

“The public thinks everything is ok. They don't know the tests they're given don't mean a thing."

Hanford Challenge said they are going to compile the information from Wednesday night’s meeting and decide how best to give it to Hanford, workers and Washington politicians.