A Message From President Bridges Regarding Potential Environmental Hazards at PNNL (Pacific Northwest Nuclear Labs, also known as the "Hanford Reservation")
Since I became Whitman's president, our administrative team has participated in several conversations with leaders at Hanford about potential environmental concerns in the region. We also have built a very strong relationship with the Walla Walla County Health Department and Emergency Management Division about mitigation strategies we would execute should there be a situation that poses risk to our campus community.
From our previous conversations and our current efforts to fully understand the situation, I am reassured that the Whitman community is not at risk. We have learned the following:
1) The leaks of hazardous waste are a matter of concern to the Hanford Reservation and potentially the Tri-Cities (Richland, Kennewick, and Pasco) area but not to Whitman and Walla Walla. Currently the leakage rates are very low; the cumulative rate of seepage from six tanks at the Hanford Site is estimated to be less than three gallons a day.
2) Walla Walla receives its drinking water from aquifers flowing from the Blue Mountains, not the Columbia or Snake Rivers where any leakage might flow if it is not halted.
3) Whitman is located approximately 80-90 miles southeast of the Hanford Site and upwind in the event of any airborne release. In the event of an airborne release, all plans to evacuate the Tri-Cities would direct people to the Walla Walla area as a safe zone.
We will continue to monitor this issue, keeping apprised of efforts to halt the leakage at Hanford. If we receive or learn of information that has relevance to Whitman and any precautionary actions we must take, we will immediately inform parents and family members of our students.
Although I am concerned about the leakage as a general environmental concern to our state, I am not now concerned about any risks posed by the leakage to our students, staff or faculty (or the Walla Walla community).