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In Brief: Department of Energy to close Hanford testing lab

Fri., March 21, 2014

RICHLAND – The Department of Energy plans to close a testing laboratory on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and send samples of air, water, soil and sludge to outside labs to save money.

The Waste Sampling and Characterization Facility will close within a year, the department told employees Wednesday.

The closure will affect 81 workers with the Mission Support Alliance and its subcontractor, RJ Lee, the Tri-City Herald reported Thursday. The employees include at least 42 Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council workers.

“The work in question is ours and we intend to fight for it,” said Dave Molnaa, HAMTC president.

The facility contains the 40,000-square-foot lab and about a dozen nearby buildings used for sample archiving, data management and canister cleaning.

The lab opened in 1994 to analyze trace amounts of chemicals and radioactive materials in samples from cleanup work and environmental monitoring.

Closing the lab will save about $12 million a year, Matt McCormick, manager of the DOE Richland Operations Office, said in a message to Hanford workers. Offsite labs can provide the same analytical services at significantly lower costs, he said.

Hanford contractor Washington Closure Hanford already is using off-site labs rather than the Waste Sampling and Characterization Facility, and contractors at other DOE sites across the nation also successfully ship their samples offsite, McCormick said.

209 cases of tuberculosis in state last year, an increase

OLYMPIA – State health officials say tuberculosis cases are on the rise in Washington state after several years of decline.

Last year, 209 cases of tuberculosis were reported. That was a 13 percent increase over the 185 cases reported in 2012.

Health officials say the tuberculosis rate in Washington state has typically been lower than the national average, but in 2013 Washington beat the national rate.

The bacterial infection, which can be fatal, is found most often in King, Snohomish, Pierce, Spokane, Clark and Thurston counties. Just 75 years ago, TB killed nearly 1,000 state residents every year. In 2013, there were 16 TB-related deaths.

In 2013, there were two cases of drug-resistant TB reported to the Department of Health. Drug-resistant TB can pose a public health threat.

Investigators assemble video of Seattle helicopter crash

SEATTLE – Investigators trying to learn what caused a fiery helicopter crash near Seattle’s Space Needle that killed two men on board and burned a third on the ground now have surveillance video footage that shows the aircraft taking off from a helipad.

Dennis Hogenson with the National Transportation Safety Board said Seattle police cataloged all the video footage captured by nearby businesses, pulled out the relevant bits and supplied copies to NTSB investigators on Thursday. He said lots of nearby businesses, including the Space Needle and a McDonald’s restaurant, had some sort of video. He said some of that shows the KOMO-TV news helicopter taking off Tuesday. It plummeted to the street and burst into flames.

Investigators also took samples of the railing around the KOMO rooftop helipad. Hogenson said the samples will be sent to a materials lab in Washington, D.C., for analysis.

Sandpoint gets legal help offer in Ten Commandments case

A conservative advocacy group says it will represent the city of Sandpoint for free in a potential lawsuit over a Ten Commandments monument in a public park.

Hiram Sasser of the Plano, Texas-based Liberty Institute made the offer at a public hearing concerning the monument on Wednesday.

“We’re pretty much the leading experts in the country on these types of cases,” said Sasser, managing director of strategic litigation.

City officials have said they’re investigating alternative locations for the monument in Farmin Park after receiving a letter in November from the Freedom From Religion Foundation asking that the monument be removed.

“The best approach is to remedy the liability by moving the monument now,” the group said in the letter.

City Attorney Scot Campbell has said the monument’s location opens the city to potential litigation. The Fraternal Order of Eagles gave the monument to the city in 1972.

About 100 people attended the meeting, with many commenting that they want the monument to remain where it is. City officials didn’t make a decision at the meeting.

First of three 144-car ferries christened at Seattle shipyard

SEATTLE – Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson decided to break the bottle herself on the hull of the Tokitae to christen the new ferry Thursday at the Vigor Industrial shipyard in Seattle.

It’s the first of three 144-car Olympic Class ferries to replace the 1950s-era Evergreen State class vessels.

The new vessel is scheduled to go into service this summer on the Mukilteo-Clinton run. The next ferry is under construction and the Legislature recently approved funding for the third. The total budget for all three is $388 million.

Tokitae is a tribal greeting meaning “nice day.” It’s also the name of a Washington orca better known as Lolita at the Miami Sequarium.


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