— Washington: “negative trend in contamination control” halts work at Hanford project — 8th worker exposure this year

From the Tri-City Herald

by Annette Cary
November 20, 2019

Work has halted at Hanford to remove a highly radioactive spill just north of Richland after an eighth incident this year in which a worker’s clothing or skin was contaminated with radioactive waste.

The 324 Building sits over a leak of radioactive cesium and strontium into the soil beneath it at the site about one mile north of Richland and about 300 yards west of the Columbia River.

“Although individually the contamination levels (on workers) have been low and no dose has been assigned to workers, collectively the number of personnel contamination events indicate a negative trend in contamination control that corrective actions  taken to date have been inadequate to address,” the Department of Energy wrote in a Nov. 14 letter to its contractor on the project, CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co.

Dose is a calculation of the radioactive exposure to the worker.

Earlier the same day that DOE sent the letter, CH2M had stopped work at the Hanford nuclear reservation’s 324 Building — one of several temporary halts to at least some of the work there this year.

Joe Franco, the DOE deputy manager at the DOE Richland Operations Office, told CH2M in the letter that he would not allow work to resume in the highly contaminated areas of the 324 Building until the company had developed a plan of correction and DOE had agreed on the path forward.

“(The Richland Operations Office) expects that workers at Hanford are protected from personnel radiological contamination while accomplishing our important Hanford mission,” Franco said.

The building has been left standing over the contaminated spill and the contamination to workers had been contained within the building, so the public is not at risk.

The building prevents precipitation from reaching the spill beneath it to carry it closer to the groundwater and also can be used to shield workers from radiation.


After the Tri-City Herald asked DOE for information about the Nov. 14 letter, Brian Vance sent a message to all Hanford employees on Wednesday afternoon saying that work within the building continues to be challenging “due to the high levels of radioactivity in the soil beneath the building.”

CH2M is working on improving “radiological practices and controls in the building by taking a holistic look at the full spectrum of operations,” Vance said. “Cleanup work in radiologically controlled areas inside the building will not resume without proper DOE oversight and approval.”

Ty Blackford, president of CH2M at Hanford, also sent a message to his employees Wednesday afternoon saying that work at the 324 Building has become more complicated.

He said work was stopped late last week after low-level contamination was discovered on an employee’s skin as they were leaving an area known to be contaminated within the building and checks were being done.

“The employee was easily decontaminated using standard techniques,” Blackford said.

In an incident in the spring in which a speck of contamination was found on the pant leg of an employee who was checking workers as they left a radiologically contaminated area, a piece of tape was used to remove the contamination.

“Each time we’ve encountered challenges at the project this past year, the team did the right thing by stopping work, evaluating conditions and determining the safest path forward,” Blackford said.

For the latest review of work processes, a team of experts is being assembled both from CH2M at Hanford and also from Jacobs Engineering, the owner of the Hanford contractor.


The staff of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board also has been concerned about worker contamination and contamination spread within the building.

In the staff’s weekly report dated June 28, it noted that there had been a fourth case of a worker’s personal clothing being contaminated and the first case of skin contamination since February.

That week contamination was found on both a worker’s clothing and his skin.

If the protective clothing that workers wear becomes damp, the contamination can wick through to their personal clothing underneath and their skin, the report said.

As work was temporarily stopped in June, CH2M focused on ways to improve contamination, including requiring workers to wear water-impermeable outer coveralls, using adhesive paper and wet rags for added dust control, and limiting water injection during drilling.

Much of the focus of the review was on preventing the spread of contamination as workers were taking of their protective clothing layer and leaving contaminated areas, according to the defense board staff report.

But worker contamination continued to be a problem, including when contamination was found on a worker’s personal clothing in September, according to the defense board staff.

The clothing may have been contaminated as he took off protective clothing, and CH2M again changed processes for taking off protection clothing.

Contamination issues are tied to two projects being done in the building.

The contamination spill was within a hot cell, where work was done with highly radioactive material by workers manipulating equipment outside the building. The highly acidic strontium and cesium that spilled within the hot cell in the 1980s ate through stainless steel to reach the soil beneath.

Plans call for sawing out the bottom of the hot cell using remotely operated equipment and then digging up the most highly contaminated soil with an excavator arm mounted on the 30-foot-high, 5-foot-thick walls of the hot cell.

DOE officials have said the contamination beneath the building is so radioactive that it would be fatal within a few minutes of human contact.


Before the bottom of the hot cell can be chopped and sawed up and then the contamination beneath it dug up, radioactively contaminated debris left in the hot cell has to be removed.

Some of the contamination events have involved the employees doing that work.

Other contamination events have been related to drilling being done into the soil beneath the building as part of a project to keep the building stable once part of the flooring and foundation is removed to allow digging.

Plans call for installing pilings beneath the building to stabilize it.

But as drilling has been done from within the building, contamination has spread.

In one incident in June contamination was found on a worker’s boots as he took off the protective clothing and was checked as he left the room where drilling was being done.

The next week was when the first incident of skin contamination since February occurred on a worker who was decontaminating the room where the drilling was being done.

“The 324 Building presents complex challenges and the department is committed to safe and deliberate completion of this project,” Vance said.Workers with Hanford’s CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co. have removed, packaged and shipped 15 bins of contaminated waste from the 324 Building since July.

Workers with Hanford’s CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co. have removed, packaged and shipped 15 bins of contaminated waste from the 324 Building since July. COURTESY DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY

Shipped where?


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— Few fish biting in Monterey Bay on opening day of recreational salmon fishing

From Monterey Herald

April 1, 2017

Moss Landing >> How slow was opening day of recreational salmon fishing in Monterey Bay?

By 12:30 p.m. Saturday only three salmon had been recorded at Moss Landing Harbor. And at Monterey Harbor only a few fish were landed.

The result was in keeping with predictions by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife that reduced fishing opportunities will be the norm this season. That is linked to poor river conditions because of the drought.

Even so, a few fishermen came in with beautiful salmon.

“Every time someone’s come in they’re saying, ‘I got one, I got two,’ ” said Alex Callison of the Monterey Harbor Patrol.

A couple of boats were towed in by the Harbor Patrol because their motors failed, Callison said, but that’s not unusual.

At Moss Landing, Dave Parks of Hollister landed the first fish. It was a keeper (at least 24 inches long) and was a tagged salmon. Members of the Ocean Salmon Project of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife were on hand to record each fish and ask fishermen how long they had been out and how deep they were fishing.

Also on hand were Fish and Wildlife game wardens to check that fishing licenses were current.

The Ocean Salmon Project representatives knew the fish was tagged because a small fin had been removed just above the tail before it was released. These fish are also implanted with a tiny stainless silver pin in the head. It contains data on where it was hatched, its age and which run it was a part of.

The heads of these fish are sent to a Santa Rosa lab for research. More on that later.


Fish No. 2 landed at 11:45 a.m. It was a wild king salmon. “Great, I get to keep the head,” one of the three fishermen said. The three took credit for the fish. They were trolling when it struck and one of them reeled in it.

But the fish were few and far between.

“I got one bite all day,” a fisherman said after loading his boat back on its trailer.

But 45 minutes later, the boat Sea Monkey docked with an 18¾-pound king salmon on board, inside a cooling bag.

Huy Nguyen of San Jose caught the fish. It was his first time salmon fishing. He said it took about five minutes to land.

…“We’ll eat well tonight,” Dang said. “A lot of salmon poki.”

Another boat landed with a catch of 10 rockfish. The opening of recreational salmon fishing and rockfishing coincided Saturday.

…By collecting data on the tagged fish, the CDFW and other fisheries agencies are able to determine how many salmon can be taken during a season and the length of the season.

On April 10, the Pacific Fishery Management Council will make those decisions.

The salmon season that opened Saturday is for the area from Horse Mountain south to the U.S.-Mexico border. The area north of Horse Mountain will remain closed this year because of the historically low number of Klamath fall Chinook salmon.

On March 1, at the Ocean Salmon Information Meeting in Santa Rosa, it was announced there are 230,700 Sacramento River fall run Chinook adults in the ocean this year and 54,000 Klamath River fall run adults. Both forecasts were lower than in recent years, with the Klamath run among the lowest on record.

Even though a poor season is predicted, the urge to reel in a fighting salmon is strong…


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— California: Yuba River salmon numbers drop again

No mention of ocean conditions.

From YubaNet.com

By South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL)

March 16, 2017,

Less than 4,000 salmon spawned in the Yuba River in 2016 according to a Monitoring Update from the Yuba Accord River Management Team. Such low numbers have not been seen since the California Salmon Stock Collapse of 2007 and 2008 when the estimated total for the Yuba River was 2,604 and 3,508 salmon, respectively. Over the last 30 years, the average annual estimate exceeds 15,000 salmon, with occasional runs above 30,000. No surveys precede the construction of Englebright Dam in 1941, which blocks access to historic spawning habitat in the watershed. However, fisheries historians have estimated that the salmon run in the Yuba River watershed originally comprised up to 15% of the historical abundance of Central Valley Chinook, or roughly 100,000 salmon.

The low salmon run size for the Yuba River appears to be part of another regional salmon collapse. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife point to preliminary data from the Sacramento River that indicates salmon runs have also dropped to record low levelsAccording to Dan Bacher’s reporting, last year’s salmon run on the Klamath River was a 38-year low, and estimates for the Sacramento River basin in 2016 suggest the need for fishing restrictions that would have a devastating impact on an already beleaguered salmon fishing industry. Salmon live a 3-4-year life cycle, and we are likely seeing just the beginning of a period of low returns resulting from five years of drought

Gary Reedy, SYRCL’s consulting salmon expert reports that “A new crash for the Central Valley Chinook salmon is not unexpected.” “Efforts to restore salmon habitat have been small compared to the ongoing impacts of water diversions, dams, invasive species and hatcheries. We need to really step up restoration efforts or else we are going to lose one of the most valuable components our watershed ecosystems and our natural heritage.”

There is also news in the Yuba River Monitoring Update from the Yuba Accord River Management Team regarding Spring-run Chinook salmon, the rarer form of Yuba Salmon that is officially threatened with extinction under the Endangered Species Act, and historically dependent on habitats in the upper watershed. Prior to August when the run shifts to predominantly fall-run salmon, only 148 salmon were found migrating up the Yuba River.  And yet some help for spring-run salmon is coming.  In the one-mile below Englebright Dam, 89 salmon redds or salmon nests were found in spawning gravel put in the river by the Army Corps of Engineers to mitigate for the impacts from their dams, a program which only recently began, thanks in large part from SYRCL’s advocacy. And another spawning habitat project, near Timbuctoo Bend, is expected to begin in fall 2017. The spawning habitat created below Englebright supports Spring-run Chinook because those are the salmon which have the stronger urge to spawn further upstream.  Of course, the ultimate help for these imperiled fish would be passage and restored flows to habitats upstream of the dam.

The estimate for total salmon in 2016 (3565 total salmon with a 95% confidence interval of 3,136 – 3,897) was made by counting, marking and recapturing carcasses. Hatchery fish, likely originating from the Feather River hatchery, marked with clipped adipose fins comprised 24% of all carcasses inspected, however, the total proportion of hatchery fish that stray into the Yuba River is actually higher because most hatchery salmon are not marked. Hatchery practices that allow such rampant straying are a “Road to Salmon Collapse” as described by FishBio who conclude: “It is time to decide whether we want to base our salmon production goals on sheer numbers of genetically similar hatchery fish, or on diverse, wild fish naturally supported by our local rivers.”

Amidst ongoing impacts — dams, hatcheries, drought, stripped bass and poor habitat downstream – what can be done to help wild Yuba River salmon? SYRCL is working with local stakeholders to aggressively restore conditions in the Lower Yuba River so that juvenile salmon can leave the Yuba in the very best condition to survive their migration to the ocean and return. SYRCL is developing Lower Yuba River Restoration Action Plan that builds on work already underway – for example, the Hammon Bar Riparian Enhancement Project and the Hallwood Side-Channel Project — to chart a restoration course and gather support for the large-scale restoration vision necessary to recover wild and self-sustaining Yuba River salmon.

SYRCL is also promoting a longer-term vision that would involve volitional fish passage to habitats in the upper Yuba River watershed currently above dams. SYRCL participates in the River Management Team (RMT) along with three other non-governmental organizations, the Yuba County Water Agency, PG&E and state and federal agencies. The purpose of the RMT is to both monitor and evaluate conditions in the Lower Yuba River and to identify and support enhancement actions. SYRCL is holding the Army Corps of Engineers accountable to an effective Ecosystem Restoration Program for the Yuba River. SYRCL also works in the regulatory process to ensure dam operators in the watershed are contributing to better conditions for salmon.


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— Feds declare salmon and crab failures for nine fisheries in Alaska, Washington and California

From KXRO:

A fisheries disaster has been declared for Grays Harbor, Willapa Bay, coastal waters, and local rivers…


January 18, 2017 U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today determined there are commercial fishery failures for nine salmon and crab fisheries in Alaska, California and Washington.

In recent years, each of these fisheries experienced sudden and unexpected large decreases in fish stock biomass or loss of access due to unusual ocean and climate conditions. This decision enables fishing communities to seek disaster relief assistance from Congress.

A disaster can be declared if events cause “serious economic impact for fishers and their communities”.

In Washington:

  • Fraser River Makah Tribe and Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe sockeye salmon fisheries (2014)

  • Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay non-treaty coho salmon fishery (2015)

  • Nisqually Indian Tribe, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, and Squaxin Island Tribe South Puget Sound salmon fisheries (2015)

  • Quinault Indian Nation Grays Harbor and Queets River coho salmon fishery (2015)

  • Quileute Tribe Dungeness crab fishery (2015-2016)

  • Ocean salmon troll fishery (2016)

In Alaska:

  • Gulf of Alaska pink salmon fisheries (2016)

In California:

  • California Dungeness and rock crab fishery (2015-2016)

  • Yurok Tribe Klamath River Chinook salmon fishery (2016)

Alaska Journal of Commerce:

January 18, 2017

Help could be on the way for the pink salmon fishermen whose catch sank to dismal lows last year.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker granted Gov. Bill Walker’s request for a declaration of a disaster for Alaska’s pink salmon fishery on Wednesday along with eight other salmon and crab fisheries along the West Coast.

In 2016, the pink salmon harvests in Kodiak, Prince William Sounds, Chignik and lower Cook Inlet came in woefully under forecast and stumped biologists as to why.

The estimated value of Kodiak’s 2016 haul was $2.21 million, compared to a five-year average of $14.64 million, and in Prince William Sound the ex-vessel value was $6.6 million, far less that the $44 million five-year average.

Now that the disaster has been declared, it will be up to Congress to find the necessary funds and secure them for fishermen.

This will be one of growing number of disaster declarations for Alaska fisheries in the 2010s.

Alaska received $20.8 million in federal money for fishery failures in 2012 over low king salmon returns on the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers and in the Cook Inlet region.





As Pacific sardine collapse worsens, scientists worry about ecosystem ripple

Researchers can’t tell exactly what’s driving the die-off…”Those ocean life patterns are just not working the way they have in the past,” said Michael Milstein, a spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

From the Oregonian

By Kelly House | The Oregonian/OregonLive
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
March 10, 2016

Charts on website

Nearly a year into a West Coast sardine fishing ban enacted to protect the collapsing population, the fish formerly worth more than $8 million to Oregon’s economy have shown no signs of a comeback.

New federal research indicates numbers of the small, silvery, schooling fish have plummeted further than before the fishing moratorium, dashing any hope of lifting it in 2016.

With the current sardine population hovering at 7 percent of its 2007 peak, fishermen now say they expect to wait a decade or more to revive the fishery.

“I don’t want to take a pessimistic view, but I would think we’ll be shut down until 2030,” said Ryan Kapp, a Bellingham fisherman who advises the Pacific Fishery Management Council on sardines and other fish.

Sardines aren’t struggling in isolation. Other fish near the bottom of the marine food web, such as anchovies and herring, are also down. The shortage of sustenance is rippling upward to create crises for predator species from seals to seabirds.

Researchers can’t tell exactly what’s driving the die-off, nor how long it will last. Some say the crash can be attributed to cyclical boom-and-bust population dynamics sardines have always exhibited.

Others argue overfishing played a role, driving sardine populations down too far and too fast to blame it on a natural population flux.

Then there’s the unavoidable presence of the “warm blob,” a lingering mass of overheated water that for more than two years has wreaked havoc on sea life off the Pacific coast.

Those ocean life patterns are just not working the way they have in the past,” said Michael Milstein, a spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal agency that tracks sardine numbers. “There’s a feeling that a lot of this is environmentally-driven.”


The Pacific fishery council’s rules call for a fishery shutdown if the total weight of adult sardines falls below 150,000 metric tons. When the population fell below that threshold last spring, council members scrambled to enact a midseason shutdown.

Federal scientists last month estimated sardine biomass has dropped below 65,000 tons this year.

Even with fishing pressures lifted, sardines could struggle to bounce back in an ocean devoid of their main food source. The lipid-rich coldwater plankton that sardines like to eat have become scarcer in West Coast waters, replaced by tropical species with less appeal to the region’s predators. Scientists suspect the warm blob is causing the plankton shift.

Without that food source, “the whole system can suffer,” said Kerry Griffin, who manages sardines for the Pacific Fishery Management Council.

The end result is ominous for more than just fishermen. Oily sardines are a key food source for larger ocean-going animals. As that option becomes scarce, predators switch to less-nutritious food options and can end up starving.

Scientists believe that chain reaction is already playing out in a big way. A group of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers last week released a study linking the sardine collapse to the surge in starving sea lion pups washing ashore along the California coast. The scientists who authored the study say they expect the mass starvation that stranded 3,000 pups last year to continue as long as forage fish numbers remain low.

Similar phenomena have been observed among other species that target small schooling fish for food. Brown pelicans are failing to breed, dead Guadalupe fur seals are washing ashore in California, undersize salmon are returning to Canadian spawning grounds and seabirds are washing ashore weakened or dead on the Oregon coast.


Environmentalists for years warned that a sardine collapse was imminent. Now they have begun lobbying to get more conservative harvest policies in place before the fishery reopens.

Research shows that overfishing intensifies the cyclical downturns of sardines and other small fish, and ocean conservation groups argue current West Coast standards are too permissive to prevent overfishing.

Ben Enticknap, a Portland-based campaign manager for the international conservation group Oceana, said the group is pushing the council to adopt new standards that would trigger a fishing ban once the sardine stock drops below 640,000 metric tons. That trigger point is more than four times higher than the current level.

The group is also lobbying for a rule to prohibit fishermen from hauling in more than 15 percent of the adult population in a given season. In the final years of harvest before last year’s shutdown, fishermen caught as much as 28 percent of the adult sardines in the water.

“Fundamental flaws in management have to be fixed, or this crash will be repeated in the future,” Enticknap said.


Although the overall results of this year’s sardine count were discouraging, scientists say there’s a glimmer of hope.

Several years of poor reproduction helped drive down the sardine population. In their latest trawl, scientists saw evidence that 2015 was a good spawning year.

It’s too soon to tell whether the reproductive success signals a turning point.

“There are some potentially positive signs there,” Milstein said, but in order to boost population counts, “the young need to survive long enough to make it into the mature population.”

–Kelly House



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