Nuclear Pollution

Elite Construction, Pasco, WA, wins Hanford site contract

A small Pasco business has been awarded a $4.8 million contract for construction work at the Hanford nuclear reservation site, adding to the company’s growing number of projects for the federal government.

Elite Construction and Development was picked up by the Hanford tank farm contractor to construct a lined basin at the U Tank Farm that will be part of a system to help prevent radioactive and hazardous waste contamination already in the soil from being carried deeper toward the groundwater.

Washington River Protection Solutions is planning a sixth ground-level barrier over some of Hanford’s underground tanks that hold 56 million gallons of waste until it can be treated for disposal.

The waste is left from chemically reprocessing uranium fuel rods that were irradiated in Hanford reactors, separating out nearly two-thirds of the plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program.

Since reprocessing began at Hanford during World War II, waste has been spilled and leaked from underground tanks to contaminate soil beneath many of the site’s 177 waste storage tanks.

Barriers, most recently made of asphalt, are built over sections of tank farms to prevent rain and snow melt from carrying contamination deeper toward groundwater, which flows underground toward the Columbia River.

The barrier to be placed over the 16 underground tanks in the group called the U Tank Farm include a system to collect water. It is transferred to a nearby lined basin, the project Elite Construction will work on at Hanford in Eastern Washington just north of Richland.

The basin project will require excavating about 8,500 cubic yards of soil, installing a liner and piping system to collect runoff, and using the excavated soil to plant vegetation as a top layer for the basin. The moisture will be transferred to the atmosphere by evaporation from the soil and plants.

Work on the basin, which will be a little larger than a football field, is expected to be complete in late 2022.

A subcontract for the soil barrier has yet to be awarded by Washington River Protection Solutions, the Department of Energy’s tank farm contractor.

The tank farm ground barriers are considered temporary structures, rather than permanent solutions to the contaminated soil at Hanford tank farms.

Elite Construction grows

The tank farm contractor has a mentor protégé relationship with Elite Construction as part of a Department of Energy program that encourages large businesses to mentor small businesses to help them grow. The US Small Business Administration has designated Elite as a small, disadvantaged business.

Elite has worked on multiple Hanford projects, including the Liquid Effluent Retention Facility basin and cover; a different tank farm lined basin; an upgrade at the Hanford 242-A Evaporator; Replacement of the Effluent Treatment Facility chiller and installation of a trailer to be used as a support facility.

It also was awarded a contract to install siding and roofing for Army National Guard barracks.

According to the company’s website, it employs about 111 people now for both government and private sector projects, but started as a two-person company doing home remodels and tenant improvements in 2008.

In 2013 it was named the Southeast Washington Minority Small Business of the Year by the University of Washington, and in 2016 it was featured on HGTV’s Tiny House Competition.

“WRPS is proud to be a part of the Tri-Cities community, and small businesses like Elite are vital to the important cleanup work we do,” said Wes Bryan, the new president of the Hanford tank farm contractor.

Nearly 65% ​​of Washington River Protection Solutions’ subcontracts have gone to small subcontractors since it started work for DOE in 2008. WRPS is owned by Amentum and Atkins, with integrated subcontractor Orano.

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Senior staff writer Annette Cary covers Hanford, energy, the environment, science and health for the Tri-City Herald. She’s been a news reporter for more than 30 years in the Pacific Northwest.

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