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Interactive Hanford Story Teaches about Nuclear Site's Threat to Columbia River


Wednesday, September 21, 2022   

The Hanford Nuclear Site on the Columbia River in central Washington has left a complex legacy for the region.

An interactive story map imagines what a water droplet would see if it passed through the site to help young people understand how Hanford affects the environment.

Lisa Muñoz, outreach coordinator for Columbia Riverkeeper, the group behind the story map, called Hanford the "most contaminated place in the Western Hemisphere," and a threat to the waters of the Columbia. Muñoz noted the content about Hanford hazards is most often in English, although the nearby Tri-Cities area has a large Spanish-speaking population.

"So if we want everyone to have an equal opportunity to engage with the cleanup of Hanford, we really have to have clearly written materials that are accessible in their preferred language," Muñoz explained.

The Hanford Nuclear Site is decommissioned, but cleanup of the area will take generations to complete. Columbia Riverkeeper's story map, called "Water's Walk Through Hanford," is designed for middle and high school-age students.

Ivonne Romero translated the story into Spanish and said it is designed to be accessible not only to young people, but their families as well. She noted the story has stuck with her.

"I finished the translation over a month ago, but I cannot stop thinking about the importance of preserving our habitat," Romero remarked. "But also the pressing need for developing energy and creating energy in ways that are probably less deleterious to humankind."

Muñoz added it is important for young people to know about Washington's nuclear site because they are part of the river communities facing continued risks from nuclear waste.

"Hanford is a multigenerational cleanup. It's going to be there in a hundred years," Muñoz stressed. "The future of Hanford will ultimately depend on the next generation advocating for cleanup that is thorough and just."

Disclosure: Columbia Riverkeeper contributes to our fund for reporting on Endangered Species & Wildlife, Environment, and Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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