In eastern Washington state, crews have been working on one of the most intensive and costly environmental cleanups in the U.S. history, addressing the site of a former nuclear production complex.
This past summer, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, a workers’ union and a watchdog group filed a motion asking a judge to force the U.S. Department of Energy and its contractor, Washington River Protection Solutions, to provide better protection to cleanup site workers, who may be exposed to topic vapors and other hazards. Ferguson told a local news affiliate that there is a “culture of indifference by the federal government and their contractors” at the Hanford site.
The motion came about a year and a half after Sandra Black, who was in charge of hearing out worker concerns for another Department of Energy contractor, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNR), was fired after speaking with U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigators. Black says she refused to cover up the concerns of SRNR employees and that the company’s attorney interfered with her investigations on a number of occasions.
The GAO report that stemmed from the Black case indicated that the Department of Energy had failed to take any meaningful action to hold its contractors accountable in meeting federal regulations.
This all relates back to the Hanford site, where workers may be exposed to dangerous chemicals on a regular basis. However, when employees raise safety concerns, the Department of Energy and its contractors seem to be pushing back rather than addressing them. As taxpayers continue to invest millions of dollars into the cleanup, it appears as though there is little relief for workers who may be exposed to highly dangerous materials as they perform their duties.
This is yet another example of why it’s so important for whistleblowers to step up and expose potential ethics violations or illegal activities within their businesses or organizations. If you would like to explore this issue further, consult a dedicated attorney at Whistleblower Law for Managers in Dallas, Texas.