Sunday, November 29, 2020
Nov. 29, 2020

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In Our View: Cheers & Jeers

Thankful for tragedy-free Fourth of July; leaky Hanford tanks imperil region

The Columbian
Published:

Cheers: To a safe Fourth of July. Local officials reported no major injuries or major fires resulting from Independence Day celebrations. But firefighters were plenty busy; dispatch logs from the Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency show that 138 outdoor fires were reported from Monday through noon Thursday, with 125 of those calls coming on the holiday Wednesday. Fortunately, none of those turned into major blazes or damaged primary structures.

Many local jurisdictions have restricted the sale and use of fireworks in recent years, including a ban in the city of Vancouver. Emergency services fielded 708 noise complaints for fireworks, with a majority of them coming on the Fourth of July. In Vancouver, officials issued 101 citations for fireworks use by Thursday afternoon. Looking to the future, we encourage all residents to follow their local laws and to be considerate of neighbors when it comes to fireworks.

Jeers: To leaky waste. A new evaluation of storage tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation suggests an increasing risk of leaking radioactive waste. Waste is being transferred from 149 single-shell tanks to double-walled tanks, but three of the double-walled tanks already in use are shown to have high risk factors for leaks. “We need to start doing something, the sooner the better,” one official said. “Cleanup depends on it.”

Hanford, which sits near the Columbia River about 200 miles upstream from Vancouver, was the site of plutonium production for the United States’ nuclear weapons program. It now is the site of more than 50 million gallons of contaminated waste. For decades, the federal government has been slow to carry out its duty to clean up the area, a fact that imperils residents throughout the region.

Cheers: To an enterprising bear. Well, residents near Puyallup probably don’t want to cheer the pesky animal, but we have to give him some credit. The bear was spotted trying to climb a fence at the grounds of the Washington State Fair and then scrambled up a tree in an attempt to evade captors.

Police “were able to give him something to help him take a nap,” then captured him for return to an area better suited for bears. “We let Smokey know that he was 2 months early,” Puyallup police said in reference to the fair. “We told him we would save him some scones, hamburgers, French fries, onion rings, and anything else he would like as long as he had a ticket.”

Jeers: To whale fatalities. It has been a difficult couple of months for whales throughout the Northwest, with at least 16 of them turning up on the Washington or Oregon coast. That number includes mostly gray whales and humpbacks, and it is the highest total in nearly two decades.

The reasons for the deaths range from being struck by a ship to being entangled in a crab pot to being emaciated. While we wish the best for the whale population and lament this year’s mortality rate, we are thankful that officials have not attempted to repeat a long-discredited method for whale removal (video: https://tinyurl.com/kt9anta).

Cheers: To recovered treasure. A man in White Swan, near Yakima, has recovered a stolen American flag that belonged to his son, who was killed while serving in Afghanistan in 2011.

The flag was stolen two months ago when Shawn Marceau’s truck was broken into. Marine Lance Cpl. Joe Jackson had it over his bed before going out on his final patrol, and the flag was signed by Marines in his platoon. When Marceau visited his son’s gravesite Tuesday, he found the flag folded in front of the headstone. “Somebody finally did something to restore our faith in humanity a little bit,” Marceau said.

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