25 Hanford workers evaluated for vapor exposure in 2 weeks

25 Hanford workers evaluated for vapor exposure in 2 weeks
FILE - In this March 6, 2013 file photo, a warning sign is shown attached to a fence at the 'C' Tank Farm at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, near Richland, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
WASHINGTON RIVER PROTECTION SOLUTIONS NEWS RELEASE -- Since March 19, 25 WRPS employees/subcontractors have been sent for medical evaluations after either reporting a concern or unusual odors and/or experiencing potential vapors-related symptoms in or near the Hanford tank farms. This includes a worker who had no symptoms, but who had worked in one of the affected areas last week, requesting and receiving a medical evaluation today. The worker was released and returned to work.

All of the employees/subcontractors have been evaluated by medical professionals at either the site medical provider or Kadlec Regional Medical Center and released for return to work.

While tank farm worker exposure to chemical vapors remains far below applicable occupational limits, the number of recent incidents within such a short period is of special concern.

WRPS has taken and is continuing to take several actions to prevent or mitigate further instances where employees might suffer physical symptoms.

Investigations in several tank farms have identified potential sources of vapor emissions and taken corrective actions.
o In one farm, field investigations identified a cut in the insulation surrounding a pump pit as one potential source of vapor emissions. The cut was sealed with foam and the area was re-evaluated. Instruments no longer detect elevated levels of potential vapor-causing compounds in the local area, but the farm complex remains under restricted access.
o In another tank farm, investigations identified liquid in old, unused equipment that had been staged for disposal as a potential source of emissions. The area around the equipment has been cordoned off as a Vapor Control Zone.
o Evaluations in a third farm where vapors-related symptoms were experienced found no detectable measurement of vapors-causing compounds, but may have been linked to an herbicide application.

A senior project manager has been named to oversee any further investigations and corrective actions that might be necessary.

Additional engineered controls, sampling/analysis equipment and procedure changes are being evaluated.