After a few days of rest at Chris Balken’s house in Kennewick (THANK YOU CHRIS!) the team set off once again for a float down the Columbia.
Putting in at Vernita Bridge Rest Area below Priest Rapids Dam we were excited that for the first time since entering the U.S to be paddling on a “free-flowing” stretch of river. Sadly it was also the last. Known as the Hanford Reach this section of river has had a very important role in our history as a Nation and World.
The Hanford Project
For more info on the Hanford Project please visit: www.hanfordproject.com
George Washington University summary of the Atomic Bomb and end of WWII: Click Here
From the Spokesman Review:
Created as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb during World War II, Hanford has been a focus of extensive cleanup efforts for two decades. Today, it is the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site, with cleanup costs expected to top $50 billion.
Hanford produced plutonium for the world’s first atomic blast, the Trinity Test, and for the bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, effectively ending World War II. The site continued to contribute to the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal throughout the Cold War.
The remnants of that effort, 53 million gallons of radioactive brew, were left behind in 177 underground tanks. Some of those tanks are known to have leaked into the aquifer, threatening the neighboring Columbia River, and 144 tanks remain to be emptied.
From the USGS:
“Problem – The U.S. Department of Energy’s (USDOE) Hanford Nuclear Reservation was designed and operated to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. As a result of plutonium processing, and operation of 9 nuclear reactors, large volumes of liquid wastes have been generated and discharged to the ground. These wastes include a wide variety of radionuclides, organic, and inorganic chemicals contained in over 1,400 waste storage, disposal, and overspill sites. 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. The Hanford site has been organized to 78 operable units, and the cleanup of each unit entails a detailed site characterization study to determine the nature and extent of contamination. EPA has oversight responsibility for the remediation and has requested the USGS to provide technical assistance.”
Hanford Environmental Dose Reconstruction Project
CDC’s work on the Hanford Environmental Dose Reconstruction (HEDR) Project represents the federal government’s first comprehensive attempt to estimate the amount and type of radiation releases that people were exposed to during plant operations at the Hanford Nuclear Weapons Production facility in Washington State. The purpose of the study was to address community health concerns by estimating the amount and types of radioactive materials that were released to the environment (via air and river pathways) from the Hanford Site and by estimating radiation doses to representative individuals within the communities downwind from Hanford. CDC first became involved in the HEDR Project in 1992, when responsibility for the project was transferred from the Department of Energy to the Department of Health and Human Services.
CDC released the first estimated dose results in April 1994. Since then, CDC researchers have been using the mathematical computer model that was developed during the HEDR project to address remaining community and scientific concerns. The dose estimation methodology developed during the HEDR project also was used by investigators conducting the congressionally mandated Hanford Thyroid Disease Study (HTDS).
Hanford Thyroid Disease Study (HTDS)
The Hanford Thyroid Disease Study was mandated by Congress in 1988. It is the first epidemiologic study to examine whether rates of thyroid disease are higher than normal among people exposed to releases of radioactive iodine from the Hanford site during the period of highest releases, 1944 through 1957. The HTDS consists of 5,199 people identified from records of births during 1940-46 to mothers whose place of residence was in one of seven affected counties in the state of Washington, and the Final Report of the HTDS was released in 2002.
1994: CDC First Estimated Dose Results: Click Here
All that history and impact aside Keel and Paul were excited to be back on the water and ironically about to pass through one of the best wildlife sections of the Columbia River.
After a nice day of current, wildlife (mostly birds and deer), and fishing we arrived at camp: Ringold Fish Hatchery.
Keel tried his luck but couldn’t pull any fish out. As one of the fishermen pulled out of the parking lot he drove over to us and offered us one of the fish he had caught. We gladly accepted the fish and put it in a side creek to stay cold.
Keel’s girlfriend Ginny drove into camp late and after drinking a few beers we called it a night. Thankful to be at a relaxing pace we woke up, made breakfast, and hung out until Ryan, Cody, Lana, Leif, Yotes, and other locals arrived for a community float from Ringold Springs Fish Hatchery to Chris’ house in Kennewick.
That night we had a great get together with friends from the Tri-cities area. Thanks to everyone who showed up!
The next day we re-stocked some food supplies and Keel took off paddling down the Columbia headed for Hood River.
Shortly after passing through the gap the wind began to blow upriver and Paul was pinned down once again. Keel at this point was a ways ahead and was going on ahead to Hood River for some rest. During the course of the trip Keel’s hip was bothering him due to an old injury making it painful for him to sit in the sea kayak for extended periods of time.