What lies beneath: The fallout of biomobilization at the Hanford site, with Sara Lovtang

BC Overlook IMG_3648
Hanford Site, Washington, USA. Credit: Stacy James, US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Soil caps are a commonly employed technique in remediation efforts at contaminated sites. Once cleanup efforts are complete, however, plants and animals at these sites may inadvertently disrupt the best laid plans if not properly accounted for. In this episode we explore what happens when natural biota and processes kick in post remediation. We chat with Sara Lovtang, lead author on an IEAM article that defends the established depth of the biologically active zone at Hanford, a nuclear waste site that processed plutonium fuel during World War II at the height of its operations.

Listen on iTunes or YouTube.

Her article “The biologically active zone in upland habitats at the Hanford Site, Washington, USA: Focus on plant rooting depth and biomobilization” is published in the July 2018 issue of IEAM.


About the Guest

2018 Lovtang headshotSara Lovtang is employed by the Oregon Department of Energy to serve as Oregon’s representative on the Hanford Natural Resource Trustee Council. Through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process defined by CERCLA, she and other Council members strive to restore ecosystem services injured by remediation of plutonium production activities at the Hanford Site spanning from 1944 into the late 1980s. Sara worked for the USDA Forest Service for almost 20 years as an ecologist in the regional program, specializing in dry forests and shrub steppe. She has worked in the field, contributed to plant association guides, and authored publications regarding plant communities throughout the Pacific Northwest’s dryland ecosystems. Before her career as a plant ecologist she worked for US Occupational Safety and Health Administration focusing on the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response standards.

Articles Referenced in this Podcast

Lovtang S, Delistraty D, and Rochette E. 2018. The biologically active zone in upland habitats at the Hanford Site, Washington, USA: Focus on plant rooting depth and biomobilization. Integr Environ Assess Manag, 14: 442-446. doi:10.1002/ieam.4044

Additional Information

Want more? Visit Grounded: An Oregon Department of Energy Podcast for additional coverage on the cleanup efforts at Hanford.

Brief history of the Hanford Site: https://soundcloud.com/oregonenergy/episode-2-the-atomic-man

Hanford’s transition to cleanup: https://soundcloud.com/oregonenergy/episode-4-hanfords-burping-tank

Nuclear Shenanigans: https://soundcloud.com/oregonenergy/bonus-hanford-cleanup-shenanigans

Why the dream of cleaning up Hanford by the 1990s won’t be realized: https://soundcloud.com/oregonenergy/episode-8-hanfords-dream-of-the-90s

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