Background and History
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a federal agency created in 1970 under President Richard Nixon. The EPA's nationwide purpose is to protect human health and the environment by writing and enforcing regulations.
EPA’s role at Hanford
EPA regulates the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) cleanup of the Hanford Site. EPA has lead oversight for the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) cleanup activities that include:
- Removing spent nuclear fuel from corroding storage pools and transferring it to safer storage areas
- Cleaning up groundwater
- Removing soil and buildings contaminated with hazardous substances
EPA also has oversight responsibility for the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) program, which is implemented by the Washington State Department of Ecology, EPA's co-regulator at the Hanford Site.
EPA's main concern at Hanford
Weapons production resulted in more than 43 million cubic yards of solid radioactive waste, and over 130 million cubic yards of contaminated soil and debris. Approximately 475 billion gallons of contaminated water were discharged to the soil. Some of these contaminants have made it to groundwater under the site, and even after more than 20 years of groundwater cleanup, 67 square miles of groundwater is contaminated to levels above drinking water standards. The EPA’s main focus is on contaminated groundwater and areas of contamination along the Columbia River.