Environment News Service (ENS)

Energy Northwest Fined for Hazwaste at Nuclear Power Plant

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Source: Environment News Service (ENS)

RICHLAND, Washington, October 5, 2007 (ENS) - The Washington State Department of Ecology issued a $120,000 penalty and administrative order Thursday to the Energy Northwest Columbia Generating Station for violations of hazardous waste management regulations. While Columbia is the only commercial nuclear power plant in the Pacific Northwest, the violations were not related to the handling of radioactive materials.

Violations included improperly stored industrial hazardous wastes and unlabeled chemicals discovered at several locations inside the Columbia Generating Station facility.

Ecology issued a second administrative order to Energy Northwest, Washington Nuclear Project No. 1 Industrial Development Complex, WNP-1.

At WNP-1, Energy Northwest had leased property to industrial clients who performed commercial operations such as painting, metal recycling, and heavy equipment storage.

During July and August of this year inspectors from Ecology's Nuclear Waste Program and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, Region 10 performed joint inspections of the two sites.

Inspectors found industrial chemicals and hazardous wastes improperly labeled and stored in old storage sheds, wastes left inside laboratory work stations, unreported spills of industrial chemicals, and chemical waste abandoned around both sites. In addition, serious concerns were identified with programs for training employees to safely handle hazardous waste materials.

'Ecology is issuing the fine and administrative orders because significant improvements in waste management are needed at both of the Energy Northwest sites,' said Ron Skinnarland, manager of Ecology's Waste Management section. 'Fortunately there have been no accidents or injuries caused by the lack of proper controls, but the training deficiencies are serious and must be addressed.'

The administrative order requires that WNP-1 properly identify, contain, store and dispose of the various wastes discovered to be improperly stored or otherwise mismanaged.

'The improper storage of these hazardous materials is a serious violation,' said Jane Hedges, Nuclear Waste Program manager. 'The unacceptable training of employees, the lack of reporting of spills of dangerous substances into the environment and the improper storage of waste escalated our concerns about lack of management and safety oversight at Energy Northwest.'

In both administrative orders, Ecology is requiring Energy Northwest to correct all violations by the end of 2007. Some of those corrections include rewriting training programs and identifying chemicals with proper labels and placing them into safe storage. If chemicals are unusable, they must be identified and disposed of properly as hazardous waste.

Ecology is encouraged by Energy Northwest's initial response to the inspection findings and the involvement of senior management.

Ecology will continue to work closely with Energy Northwest to ensure that all violations are addressed at both the Columbia Generating Station and at the WNP-1 Industrial Development Complex.

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