Letter: Demand Congress fix Hanford now

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The Columbian Feb. 26 editorial, "Congress, fix Hanford," suggested "there could easily come the day when everyone wishes a more expeditious plan had been enacted" to clean Hanford.

As executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper, I think today is that day. Hanford's underground storage tanks have already leaked more than 1 million gallons of nuclear waste into the ground, contaminating groundwater and threatening the Columbia River.

What else needs to go awry at Hanford before we demand independent oversight of Hanford's cleanup and implementation of a more diligent cleanup plan that protects public health and the Columbia River from Department of Energy's damaging mishaps?

The Washington Department of Ecology and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must play a more aggressive role in monitoring the DOE.

On top of that, it is time for serious structural changes in Hanford oversight: Congress should create an independent board that will enforce the law, not just complain about the failures, demand accountability and answers, root out corruption and complacency, demand progress, and refuse to accept excuses. I applaud our Washington and Oregon senators, as well as Gov. Jay Inslee, for asking the right questions. But today we need action to ensure independent, long-term oversight of Hanford's cleanup.

Brett VandenHeuvel

Hood River, Ore.