It’s a strange town, home of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, my home away from home while facilitating meetings of the Hanford Natural Resource Trustee Council. Their mission – to assess injuries to natural resources associated with the Hanford site, calculated damages associated with those injuries, and on behalf of the public trust, restore those injuries to the extent possible.
There is no other small-town airport I know of where all the large ads on the walls are for mega-laboratories and engineering firms – Fleur, Pacific Northwest Laboratories, Parsons Engineering. Walls full of smiling scientists and hard-hatted engineers. Looking around in the airport, crew-cut engineers and federal bureaucrats mingle with cowboy-booted farmers and field-hands.
Driving into town, buildings are named after CH2M Hill, Battelle, Dept. of Energy. I’m staying in the Red Lion Hanford House, with conference rooms named after geographic features of the sweeping Hanford Site.
A ceaseless wind is blowing when I arrive, piling the tumbleweeds up against the fence near the airport. One wonders where they’ve been … tumbleweeds hereabouts having occasional issues with radioactivity. Even now, even as Fleur works to keep them from growing in the contaminated zones, while they fight back by becoming resistant to even the most effective pesticides.
The wind moans through the roof of the hotel, and dust rises out on the farms and arid plateaus. The locals complain; it’s about time for the wind to stop, they say. Later in the week, it does. One of these years I’m going to remember about Richland and bring decongestants. No matter the time of year, there’s always something in the air. Tumbleweeds float down the Columbia River out in front of the hotel.
I am grateful for this job, genuinely enjoy the people I’m working with, the challenges they bring, and support the mission of this council. I have the luxury this year of focusing on this work, mainly, serving these people. So, welcome to Richland, my home away from home.