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“The Crying Post Project: Post #7, Secrets and Lies.” Hanford, Washington, USA.
Post Notes

In stark contrast to its image as a green natural fun land, the State of Washington is home to a surprising number of seemingly intractable long-term environmental problems. These include the disastrous drop-off in salmon populations, caused by a wide range of different man-made factors. This is not only of ecological and commercial concern, it is destroying native cultures dependent on salmon for everything from food to spirit. One such man-made factor in this are dams. Washington is one dam happy state. Everywhere you drive you see them. Subsidized by the federal government to support non-competitive (but well connected) industries and individuals, these dams cause all sorts of additional ecological disintegration. Then there is the Duwamish River, or the industrial sewer of Seattle. It has been so polluted with PCBs, heavy metals, and other biohazards this it was declared a superfund site in 2001. (Not sure how Bush let that one slip by). But perhaps the worst environmental problem - and certainly the one with the longest lasting implications - is that of the Hanford Nuclear Facility.

As a speaker at the "Earth Rites: Imagination and Practice in Sci-Arts Eco-Culture" conference held by the Art Culture Nature organization at the University of Washington in Bothell, I figured that this would be a good opportunity to put up another Crying Post. This turned out to be one of the easier posts to put up. From early on in the planning stage, I had the help of Seattle artist extraordinaire, Perri Lynch and her friend Scott Barclay. We knew that there would be no chance of getting close to the actual site as it is surrounded by exposed flat terrain. Additionally, Hanford had been in the news lately because of the lawsuit by the downwinders (people with cancers likely caused by exposure to waste from the facility). However, Perri and Scott located a general area in the mix of private and public land in the steep rugged hills just across the river from the facility. We drove out there and after a bit of hiking we found the perfect spot. It was installed just fine and with no technical difficulties. 

After the conference, I left to drive to Alaska for the eighth Crying Post memorializing the Exxon-Valdez oil spill. The one thing you can’t help but notice as you drive from British Columbia through the Yukon and into Alaska is hundreds of miles of ash-grey spruce trees. They stand there like 30 or 40 foot test tube brushes, looking fine, except for that color. Compared to the green of younger trees or other types of trees, they appear to be the dead spirits, or shades, of the forest. At dusk, they look to be the walking dead. 

Stopping at the Sheep Mountain Visitor Center near the Kluane National Park I was told that these ghost trees were created by white spruce bark beetles. Although, three-toed woodpeckers are loving the huge increase in beetle larvae, it is the cold winters that normally keep their numbers down. However, there haven’t been too many cold winters lately. I informed the ranger that I’m from the U.S. where we don’t believe in global warming. One can only imagine the conflagration (and increased CO2) when these hundreds of square miles of trees go up in flames. Those of you who have been following The Crying Post Project will note the importance of trees and tree symbology to the artwork. Although this time I did not put up a post to memorialize these trees, consider them to be unofficially represented by the two posts at each end of this damaged forest. These two memorial sites are the Hanford Nuclear Facility in Washington State, and the Exxon-Valdez oil spill in Alaska.
50 Years of Secrets and Lies

In 1986 when an environmental group in Spokane forced the release of classified documents from Hanford, the public learned that the plutonium factory (plutonium is one of the most poisonous substances known to man, a microscopic speck on the lungs can cause cancer) had made a practice of poisoning its downwind and downstream neighbors. Huge atmospheric release of radiation, all of them secret and some of them intentional, occurred throughout the second half of the forties and early fifties. Radiation drifted east with the prevailing winds across eastern Washington, Oregon, and northern Idaho. . . . 

Hot water from Hanford made the Columbia the most radioactive river on earth. River water was piped into eight reactors as a coolant, stored in basins for a few minutes or a few hours, and then pumped back into the river. The temperature of the Columbia went up by as much as 2 degrees as the river swallowed highly toxic radionuclides that found their way all the way out to the mouth of the river (more than 350 miles) to lodge in oysters and clams. Hanford documents show that biologists secretly discussed the “advisability of closing” a downstream stretch of the river to public fishing and hunting in the late 1950s when plutonium production was at its peak and resident fish and ducks showed dangerously high concentrations of radioactive phosphorus. But no warnings were issued. . . . The most susceptible victims of the “river pathway” turned out to have been the same people who were most susceptible to dams on the Columbia - Native Americans who ate a lot of fish. 

Hanford . . . may prove to be the most expensive environmental cleanup in history. The bill was initially pegged at an astronomical $50 billion over thirty years. By some estimates, that could jump to $300 billion. By comparison it cost $250 million to clean up Love Canal, $1 billion for Three Mile Island, and $10 billion to restore Kuwait's oil industry after the Gulf War. 

Hanford is home to two-thirds of the country's high-level radioactive waste, some of it in tanks and some of it in the soil. The federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry ranked Hanford as its top health hazard among more than a hundred major cleanup sites across the country. Because of the threat of explosion and the threat to groundwater, Hanford was the only site on the “most urgent” list. 

 . . . 

Throughout most of the cold war, only the most dangerous of Hanford's wastes - concentrated plutonium syrup and other very toxic nucleotides - was stored in underground tanks. There are 177 of these tanks, more than a third of which are known to leak. The vast bulk of the waste was poured or pumped directly into the soil. This included ninety-three thousand pounds of uranium, and four hundred pounds of plutonium. At least 1.2 million cubic yards of soil at Hanford is radioactive, according to the Department of Energy, enough to cover a football field to a depth of seven hundred feet. 

 . . . 

The original builders at Hanford had guessed it would take up to 180 years for contaminated groundwater to reach the river. But just eleven years after plutonium production began, radioactive groundwater was detected near the Columbia. One underground plume of radioactive tritium penetrated the soil beneath the chemical plants and traveled nine miles to the river in just seven years. 

 . . . 

Ralph Pratt, who works for the Oregon Water Resource Department . . . told me that . . . “[I]t is not just radioactive materials that worry Oregon. Just about every chemical known to man has been used at Hanford. This stuff will not decay away. Will some of it get to the river? The answer is absolutely yes. But we can't say how much and how soon.” 

 . . . 

The secretary of energy formally acknowledged in 1990 that Hanford's releases of iodine-131 (a short-lived radioactive element that collects in the human thyroid, where it can cause thyroid malfunction, benign tumors, and cancer) were high enough to cause illness among people living downwind. Seven years of federal research on the size and spread of the releases have found that about eighty thousand people, including sixteen thousand children, were exposed to more than 10 rads of radiation. (A rad is a measurement of absorbed radiation. It is roughly the equivalent of a dozen chest X-rays. The current federal limit for an annual safe dose of man-made radiation is 0.025 rad. Federal guidelines call for evacuation if the dose to the thyroid reaches 5-25 rads.) Some children, who drank milk from cows that grazed on irradiated grass, were exposed to a lifetime dose of as much as 870 rads to their thyroid. The head of Hanford's dose reconstruction project has said that some eastern Washington downwinders were exposed to twice as much radiation as civilians who lived downwind of atomic testing in Nevada and who have higher rates than normal of thyroid disease and cancer. 

 . . . 

[The U.S. government staged a secret, planned release of atmospheric contamination in 1949 called Green Run.] It spread across most of eastern Washington and eastern Oregon. Vegetation samples taken not far from Mesa in the week of the experiment showed radiation counts as high as one thousand times the then-tolerable limit. The amount of radiation pumped into the air during the Green Run was more than seven hundred times greater than what was released during the 1979 partial core meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. 

Three Mile Island, America's worst civilian nuclear accident, released about 15 curies of radiation, causing alarm across much of the East Coast and forcing the confiscation of milk and vegetables. The Green Run released at least 11,000 curies of radiation and remained secret for thirty-seven years. 

[In 1953] a Hanford chemical plant called REDOX repeatedly spewed carcinogenic particles of ruthenium into the wind. The risk was considered serious enough behind the fences on the Hanford site to restrict travel to main highways. But in nearby Mesa, where farmes were showered with ruthenium, no warnings were given or restrictions imposed. “Nothing is to be gained by informing the public,” Herbert M. Parker, the head of health and safety at Hanford wrote in 1954. 

A River Lost: The Life and Death of the Columbia/ Blaine Harden 


1944, September: 
Hanford began making plutonium for atomic bombs when B reactor started operating. Radioactive contamination, the by-product of plutonium production, began to be released into the river. 

Major releases of radioactive materials to the air and soil began. 

1945 By December: 
Hanford's plutonium plants released about 560,000 curies of iodine-131 during 1945. 

The dike of a waste pond broke and spilled an estimated 28 pounds of uranium into the Columbia River. 

1949, December: 
The Green Run occurred on December 2-3 at Hanford. It was a planned, top secret release of approximately 8,000 curies of iodine-131. It was the largest single release from Hanford. 

1951 To July: 
Special iodine filters on Hanford's processing plants began to fail. Before they were replaced in July, about 23,000 curies of iodine-131 were secretly released over Eastern Washington during the height of the agricultural growing season. In the 1990s, the Hanford Environmental Dose Reconstruction (HEDR) Project estimated that 34,360 curies were released in 1951. Scientists serving as experts in downwinder litigation have calculated that the releases may have been as high as 92,100 curies in 1951. 

Nearly 250 curies of ruthenium-103 and ruthenium-106 were released at Hanford because of processing problems. 

1954, January: 
Releases of over 300 curies of radioactive ruthenium-106 from Hanford's Redox (reduction-oxidation) plant occurred. Some of the ruthenium particles were detected in Spokane, Wash. 

The last two of Hanford's original eight reactors started operation. One of the K reactors experienced a partial fuel meltdown at startup. 

Approximately 200 curies of iodine-131 were released over two days. 

Late 1950s to mid-1960s: 
All of the original eight plutonium production reactors operated at their highest power levels during this time. As a result, contamination of the Columbia River was at its highest. Hanford's releases contaminated fish in the Columbia as well as Pacific oysters in coastal areas of Washington and Oregon. 

1962, April: 
A "criticality accident" (a self-sustaining nuclear reaction) at the Plutonium Finishing Plant released an estimated 1,200 curies of radioactive gases over three days. Three workers received high exposures inside the plant. 

1963, September: 
Short-cooled (green) nuclear fuel was accidentally processed. About 70 curies of iodine-131 were released. 

1973, May: 
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that 100 billion gallons of low-level liquid waste were discharged into the ground during 30 years of Hanford operations. 

Hanford officials announced that they detected a 115,000 gallon leak from nuclear waste tank 106-T. 

1975, January: 
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer published a story about an AEC report of at least 60 "unplanned" releases at Hanford, including the 1954 ruthenium-106 release. The story was based on a report frpm the federal Energy Research and Development Administration (publication number ERDA-1538), the first environmental impact statement on Hanford. 

Stephen Stalos resigned as manager of Hanford's nuclear waste surveillance program charging that the USDOE covered up tank leaks and that the contractor, Rockwell Hanford, used lax safety practices. 

1984, January: 
USDOE temporarily shut down the PUREX plant, stating initially that the plant was closed because of thorium emissions that exceeded standards. Later it was announced that plutonium emissions prompted the closure. 

Faced with impending disclosure, a Hanford official announced the possibility of a hydrogen explosion in Tank 101-SY. HEAL revealed that Hanford scientists had known since 1979 that potentially explosive concentrations of hydrogen had been building up within 101-SY. 

The TSP announced preliminary results from the HEDR Project. These results indicated that more than 13,000 people could have received potentially harmful doses of iodine-131 from Hanford's releases of radioactive materials. 

1992, October: 
The HEDR Project announced a revised estimate that 685,000 curies of radioactive iodine-131 were released from Hanford between 1944 and 1947. This represented a 70 percent increase from the original estimate. The new estimate was based on information contained in USDOE documents declassified during the last two years. 

2005, May: 
A federal jury awarded more than $500,000 to two victims of thyroid cancer who blamed their disease on radiation from the government's Hanford nuclear installation, which made plutonium bombs for four decades. 

USA Today, May 20, 2005/ Nicholas K. Geranios 

Many lawsuits remain pending.

Intermountain Semidesert Province 
Columbia-Snake River Plateaus, Wyoming Basin, 159,100 mi2 (412,100 km2) 

Land-surface form.--This province covers the plains and tablelands of the Columbia-Snake River Plateaus and Wyoming Basin. The plateaus include most of the Northwest's lava fields. Lying at about 3,000 ft (900 m), the plateaus are surrounded by lavas that have been folded or faulted into ridges. To the south, the plateaus grade into the basins and ranges of the Intermountain Desert Province. 

Climate.--The climate of the plateaus is semiarid and cool, with an average annual temperature of about 50F (10C). Average annual precipitation ranges from less than 10 in (260 mm) in the west (in the rain shadow of the Cascade Range) to 20 in (510 mm) in the east. Precipitation is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year, except during the summer months, when there is little rain. 

Vegetation.--The chief vegetation, sometimes called sagebrush steppe, is made up of sagebrush or shadscale mixed with short grasses. Moist alkaline flats support alkali-tolerant greasewood. Along streams in and near the mountains where the water is good, valley bottoms are lined with willows and sedges, which give way to greasewood and other alkali-tolerant plants as one moves away from the mountains. Lands in the Columbia River Basin with more than 10 in (260 mm) of rainfall per year have an open cover of bunchgrass, and are excellent for raising wheat. 

Soils.--This province has extensive alluvial deposits in the floodplains of streams and in the fans at the foot of mountains. Dry lake beds are numerous, and there are extensive eolian deposits, including both dune sand and loess. In the Columbia River Basin, loess deposits are up to 150 ft (46 m) thick, and soils developed from them are correspondingly complex. Aridisols dominate all basin and lowland areas; Mollisols are found at higher elevations. 

Subsoils contain a layer enriched with lime and/or gypsum, which may develop into a caliche hardpan. Because the basin is semiarid and weathering is therefore slight, soil texture and composition are governed by parent materials. 

Fauna.--Because of its wilderness character, this region supports a great variety of wildlife species. In winter, seasonal changes force many birds and mammals to move from the mountains into the sagebrush semidesert, where they find suitable habitat alongside the area's permanent residents. 

Major mammals are coyote, pronghorn antelope, mountain lion, and bobcat. Smaller species include Wyoming ground squirrel, whitetail prairie dog, deer mouse, whitetail jackrabbit, and porcupine. During severe winters, elk and mule deer move into the desert. 

This region is an important breeding and resting ground for migrating waterfowl. Mallards, pintails, green-winged teal, and gadwalls are most common. Canada geese are locally important. Sage grouse are the most abundant upland game bird. The numerous raptors here include Swainson's hawk, ferruginous hawk, rough-legged hawk, red-tailed hawk, marsh hawk, prairie falcon, great horned owl, and burrowing owl. 

Reptiles include sagebrush lizard, horned lizard, and prairie rattlesnake.

U.S. Forest Service,,95
Post Place

N. 46º 26.830' 
W. 119º 15.287' 
Elevation 138 m (454') 

The river that arcs around the edges of the plutonium factory is not the bathtub Columbia that we have come to expect, all fat and listless and stoppered up behind concrete. On the contrary, this stretch of river is swift, undammed, exuberantly wild. Shallow water scuds over gravel bars where chinook salmon spawn by the tens of thousands. Bald eagles swoop to capture spawned-out fish. Pregnant deer fight the current as they swim out to islands in the river to fawn at a safe distance from coyotes. Great blue herons nest in apricot trees along the shore. A dun-colored desert plain rises gradually from the right bank of the river, climbing three thousand feet to a distant basalt spine called Rattlesnake Mountain, where river Indians once sent their sons to pray alone to the Creator. Between the fast river and the sacred mountain, amid a covering of sagebrush and bluebunch wheatgrass, about fifty species of wildlife take refuge. From pygmy rabbits to Rocky Mountain elk, the plain is one of the last sanctuaries in the Pacific Northwest for endangered and threatened wildlife. On the river's left bank, a sheer bluff of creamy white clay juts up six hundred feet, containing within its sun-bleached verticality the fossilized remains of rhinoceros and camel, mastodon and bear. Prairie hawks, peregrine falcons, and other raptors rifle down out of the mausoleum bluffs to pray on migrating ducks and geese. 

The Hanford Reach of the Columbia is not unlike the “incredible” river that awed Lewis and Clark in 1805. For fifty-one miles, it surges through an arrestingly uncivilized landscape, cantankerous as its ancient self. As the only free-flowing, non-tidal segment of the river in the United States, it offers salmon the finest spawning habitat on the Columbia and is the best reason to believe that wild salmon will never be completely engineered out of the river. The Hanford Reach, which cuts through the only extant shrub-steppe ecosystem in eastern Washington, has been recommended by the Department of the Interior as a wildlife refuge and a National Wild and Scenic River. 

This curiously undead fragment of the Columbia, of course, is an accident. The Hanford Reach eluded damn builders not because it was exceptionally scenic but because it was eminently expendable. The Manhattan Project, the U.S. effort to develop an atomic bomb during World War II, knew little and cared less about rivers or salmon. Frantic to beat Hitler to the bomb, a substantial factory site was needed for the production of weapons-grade plutonium, a process that demanded huge quantities of cold water and electricity. After a nationwide search, the bomb makers settled on the tiny riverside village of Hanford because the surroundings offered access to the nation's coldest big river and power from the world's biggest dam. But even more important, in the words of Franklin T. Matthias, the Army lieutenant colonel who in 1942 scouted locations for a plutonium plant, Hanford was “an area with almost no people.” There would be few victims - or witnesses – in case the biggest secret of World War II happened to blow up.

A River Lost: The Life and Death of the Columbia/ Blaine Harden
Hanford Downwinder

I was born in the end of 1950 in Richland, at the Atomic Energy Commissions hospital, called Cadillac Hospital, and my father was a nuclear engineer here and my mother worked also at Hanford until I was born. My brother had died in 1947 as part of a spike or increase in neo-natal deaths within the Hanford downwind area. We're not quite sure why he died. He died shortly after birth. But here were quite a few babies that died during that period and it was coincidentally during a time of very high releases from the Hanford facility at about 1947. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry is looking into that unexplained peak of neo-natal deaths. So I lost him too. 

In utero, and growing up, I was then exposed to radio-Iodine that crossed the placental barrier, in utero. There are studies that show that happens. And as an infant and child, I drank goat's milk, primarily because at that time most women did not breast feed. So most infants got milk, plus formula. And the milk was produced in the Kennewick dairy, so it was local milk. 

I was also taken a lot to the Columbia River and I swam in the areas that were a little bit warmer sometimes, because I was unable to keep my body temperature up. This may have been a result of some of the radio-Ioldine exposure. I had cold intolerance, so I sought the warm parts of the river. And it looks, from what I've learned, that the warmer parts of the river were where the effluent, or waste products, from the nine reactors that were operating at Hanford went into the river. So I was probably swimming in the effluence, which is not a good thing. 

And we would go out to the beach and the islands in the middle of the Columbia and I would play like any little kid would, in the the nice fine sand. And I would make mud pies and I would do all of the things that little kids like to do, and it was just beautiful out there with the winds and the birds. And I would eat a certain amount of this stuff, because kids do the hand to mouth behavior. Much to my dismay, several years ago I learned that the islands where I was having all this fun, were covered with a fairly thick layer of Cobalt-60. One of the target areas of Cobalt-60 is the intestinal tract. It's really hard every year to discover something new about my exposure and look it up in my target organs chart and say, "Oh my, how many cancers am I at risk for now?" 

So I was exposed to a range of radio-nucleides also because my parents would come home from work with stuff on their clothes, stuff you couldn't see. Stuff on their lunch boxes, stuff on the tires of their car. There were all sorts of particle releases, Ruthinium, Sezium 137. There were almost 300 radio-nucleides released. Who knows which of those were stuck to my parents clothing, got tracked home to the rug of my F-house. We had lettered houses A,B,C,D,E,F in this government town. They tracked the contaminants home and I crawled through this stuff 'cause I was a baby, put my hand on the rug, put my hand in my mouth. Heaven only knows how much stuff I got that way. Plus I had the notepass (?) for the radio-Iodine. I was being dunked in the Columbia River, in the effluence, playing in the Cobalt-60 on the islands. So lots of exposure pathways that are really not good for babies and infants to be exposed to. This is just horrible when you think about the fact that you are putting little innocent babies in harms way, this way. 

What's fascinating to me about these "chronic low-dose exposures" - which means low dose is a relative term - I mean 900,000 curries of radio-Iodine plus 299 other radio-nucleides to me is not a low dose. Particularly, when you look at three-mile island, which emitted 15 to 21 curries of radio-Iodine. I'm not criticizing the health problems that have been reported at three mile island. I take them very seriously. But I want to put into context the amount that was released from Hanford. For the "chronic low-dose exposures", they result in the insidious and slow development of symptoms. So you kind of have one symptom and then another and they creep up on you. It doesn't just start like BAM!, you just get sicker and sicker. So I followed that pattern. I got sicker and sicker. The first symptoms that I had were real irregular periods, even when I was young. 

They symptoms are very subtle in the way that they sneak up on you when it's a chronic low-dose exposure. And I first experienced some fatigue, which I didn't think was all that abnormal, then my menstrual cycle got disrupted, which really upset the Spaniards. I was living in Spain at the time, because my father was working on a reactor in the Basque area of Spain. And I was taken to Spanish physicians who really didn't like that a female in her late teen years was having irregular menstrual cycles. It upset them greatly. So they sent me back to the United States to find out what was wrong with me and they couldn't find anything wrong. 

But I stayed here in the U.S. and kept going to school, started at the University of Washington. And then I started feeling a lot of indigestion, for some reason. I couldn't keep food down, I couldn't figure out what it was. I started feeling sick every day, but because I'm fairly tough I adapted to that and kept going. Then I experienced weight gain with no real reason. That is, I wouldn't eat much, but I would gain weight. Then this weight gain was very difficult to explain, because I would not eat much at all and I would still gain weight. Then I would get a strange inability to deal with stimulus. If there was more than one noise happening or two or three things in my environment it would confuse me. It was really hard to deal with. I can't quite explain it. I know now that that is one of the symptoms of untreated hypo-thyroidism. 

And I kept going, because I'm pretty tough and I went to the medical clinic at the University of Washington and they still didn't come up with anything conclusive as a diagnosis. Then I developed a tumor on my neck and that was a little bit of a shock. There's still a little bit of it here. It was about as large as my fist. And I became hoarse, I couldn't speak for months. And the tumor, it was very obvious, it was sitting here and I got very sick. I couldn't breathe. And so I was diagnosed with Cat Scratch Fever, which is very unusual. I had not been scratched by a cat. It's a typical problem of someone with a crashing immune system. All this I learned after the fact. 

I was out of work for months. The tumor they thought was malignant. It turned out it was benign but, it really scared the physicians even more than myself. And I was taken to grand rounds at University of Washington, because you don't see people with Cat Scratch Fever and they thought this was fascinating. So now I had irregular menstrual cycles, I was exhausted, over weight and I had a tumor on my neck, something was going on. And I was hoarse. So I have a lot of throat problems because of what I've been through. 

So I eventually got a little better, but it turned out I was having walking problems. I was having strange muscle contractions happen in my body and they would just hurt like a Charlie horse. So I had to rest a lot, I had to cut back on my work. But I'm still tough so I decided I would go to law school, instead of working. So I got accepted at a few law schools and I went to law school at University of California at San Francisco in Hastings. And I was doing okay. I was tired and I was having trouble concentrating, but I made it, I kept going and then one day I was clerking for NASA as a law clerk and I was talking to the general council of NASA, he came by my office for a briefing, and I suddenly collapsed on the floor with extreme chest pains and they were certain I was having a heart attack so they called the paramedics. I couldn't move and they did an EKG and it came up negative, but I was in extreme pain and so they took me to the hospital and kept me and determined that my esophagus had just contracted. Which is real unusual. The esophagus is right next to the thyroid and apparently I had auto-immune thyroiditis and the antibodies had set off some sort of a reaction with the esophagus. 

From then on I had extreme pain in every muscle in my body and I had to keep ice on my muscles. I went to the health center there at school and another health center. They still hadn't come up with an appropriate diagnosis. The reason is, in part, no one knew about Hanford's radio-Iodine releases because the DoE did not release that information, until Tim Connor at the Hanford informational Education League filed a number of Freedom of Information Act requests. We didn't learn about that until 1986. This was 1983. I had gone as an undiagnosed severely hypo-thyroid person now for 15 years. This is very, very bad for you as you can see. I was getting dizzy, I was getting very heavy grainy pressure in my head. Yet I wanted to finish law school, I never gave up on anything. 

So, in spite of being really ill , I pushed and pushed, made it through law school somehow. I made it through the bar exam, threw up in the middle a few times, really having trouble focusing and stuff. And then for the next ten years I still received incorrect diagnoses, nobody knew about Hanford, and then I started losing weight, down to 110 pounds, that's quite thin for me, I'm 5'6" and my hair started sticking out really thick, as it would if you were hyper-thyroid, not hypo, hyper. So I was transiently hyper thyroid and I would break out in cold sweats and my body would... I would just get these panic attacks and my body would just get soaked in sweat. And I couldn't sit between people, I couldn't lean over. If I leaned over I would start feeling really dizzy. 

This went on and on until finally I was visiting my grandmother in Spokane, Washington in 1987, she lived there her whole life. And there was an article by a reporter named Karen Dorn-Steele and it talked about the radio-Iodine releases from Hanford. This was one of the first articles I had ever seen. But these releases at that time were thought to be in the 40's and I was born in late 1950. So first when I read it I went, "Oh my God, could that have been something that happened to me? Is that what this is?" Then I thought, "No, thank goodness, I was born in 1950, I escaped!" Later, we learned that there was a peak of radio-Iodine release in 1950, '51, '52 and '53 and the filters were removed from the stacks and I received quite a dose at that time. 

So, to make the story come to some kind of conclusion, I was finally diagnosed correctly in 1988 and, by the time I was diagnosed, my thyroid stimulating hormone levels, that's what's put out by the pituitary to get the thyroid to work, when you're hypo-thyroid, were 33.3 the norm is 2.5-5. The pathology lab called me directly, saying, "You know you're lucky you're not dead!", essentially. I had had an apparent almost cardiac incident , I was almost in a coma and they called me directly. Normally, they call the doctor and the doctor calls you. Well the pathology lab called me because they were so upset about my TSH level. 

So Hanford, by not releasing this information to us, nearly killed me. It was very close. Screwed up my life completely, really messed up almost all of my life, has caused me a great deal of suffering, has killed my entire family and I have two choices at this point. One is to be very angry and yell. The second is to try and apply some degree of reason and logic to make things better for those who still survive and that is people throughout the nuclear weapons testing and productions facility, who have been put through the same thing I have. 

I'm now at high risk for thyroid cancer and for gastro-intestinal cancer, ovarian cancer and breast cancer. That's four cancers that I know I'm at high risk for. I have severe digestive problems, in spite of the fact that I'm on Cynthroid for the rest of my life. If I stop taking it I go into a coma in about a month and I die. And my choice now is, with regard to my thyroid, if I leave it in I'm at high risk for thyroid cancer and if they take it out I will probably bleed to death because the blood supply has grown around my thyroid. It's very tiny and it's ablated from my exposures. And if they take my thyroid out I'll bleed to death, or they could irradiate it with radio-Iodine, to get rid of the thyroid cancer but if they did that they would increase my risk of the other cancers. Those are three terrible choices that they've given me. 

Have they given me any healthcare? No! Have they monitored my thyroid? No! Have they apologized? No! Have they done anything? Yes, they laugh at me, sometimes. They laugh at people like me, when we bring up our health problems. They exclude us from meetings, now they're trying to keep us out of the compensation plan. Something's wrong with this picture.

Trisha Pritikin (interview April 2000),
Not long ago a noted linguist could declare, "The grammatical rules of a language are independent of any scale of values, logical, esthetic, or ethical." That was before students of language became interested in what lies beyond the sentence; we now realize that understanding language includes understanding the circumstances of its use. The question of appropriateness to external facts is as relevant as that of the appropriateness to classes of speakers or appropriateness to the occasion of speaking. If one were to state rules defining an appropriate conversational situation, two of them would have to be that a speaker assumes that his hearer will believe what he says, and the corollary that the hearer expects what is being communicated to be true. Thus the best definition of truth is that which is intended not to deceive (and is not simply erroneous). This brings truth down from the stratosphere and makes it a product of our efforts.

Aspects of Language/ Dwight Bolinger and Donald A. Sears
Life with the Salmon
The Lummi Tribe of Native Americans has resided in northwest Washington State at the northern end of Puget Sound for 12,000 years. Throughout their existence, the Lummi people have relied on fishing as the mainstay of their culture and their survival. They designed the commonly used fishing methods of the reef net, the weir, and the purse seine, and lived in villages along the mainland and throughout the San Juan islands. Ceremonies and legends related to salmon and salmon fishing, with names such as The First Salmon Ceremony and The Tale of the Salmon Woman have been passed down through generations and provide evidence of the sacred relationship between the Lummi history and culture and the salmon. 

Today, the Lummi people consist of over 3,500 enrolled tribal members and primarily live on or around a 20,000 acre reservation. Fishing and gathering of shellfish is the primary means of subsistence for most of the Lummi. Their livelihood and culture is based on fishing, and has been so since their existence as a tribe for the past 12,000 years. 

This critical economic and cultural resource, however, is presently severely threatened with extinction. During the past ten years the salmon stocks have drastically declined. Once so thick that you could "walk on their backs" as legends say, two of the four species of salmon are now being considered for the national Endangered Species list. 

This decline is attributed to accelerated logging in the headwater areas of the Nooksack Basin, the erection of small hydroelectric dams on salmon streams, ground and water pollution from industry and agriculture, the decline of wetland areas, and the rapid and irresponsible development of the lowland areas. As a result of such actions, the North Fork of the Nooksack River has dropped over eight feet in the past ten years, over 60% of the salmon streams have been destroyed due to logging practices, and the critical portions of the South Fork of the Nooksack River average over 70 degrees F. which is a lethal temperature for salmon. A more recent threat to the species is the growing "private property rights" movement that decries the regulations on private lands that were passed to protect the salmon streams. 

Yes, fisheries are in decline in the Pacific Northwest just as they are around the globe. Yes, harvest management--and mismanagement--are a big part of the reason for this decline. But the real story is that the entire marine ecosystem is in serious trouble--from the tiniest organisms to the marine mammals at the top of the food web, from the estuaries to the deep blue sea. 

To improve harvest management, without reversing the trends that are making the marine environment unhealthy and unlivable, is to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. To improve environmental assessments and to streamline permit processes is merely to tinker with the rate of ecosystem decline. 

The answers lie not in tweaking our decision-making processes, not in adopting improved ways of doing what we have been doing. The answers lie in a new direction. 

What we need is a policy to restore the marine ecosystem--an ocean restoration policy. And we need that policy implemented. 

Puget Sound and the Northwest Straits are the corner of the ocean that I know best. While we in the Northwest often tout our uniqueness, our similarities to other coastal areas should impress you: 

Most of the people in our region live near the marine environment. 

Our once plentiful marine resources have become scarce. 

Pollution threatens the viability of our shellfish industry. 

Native Americans' cultural, economic and nutritional dependence on marine resources has been drastically affected by depeleted and contaminated marine species. 

Persistent, bio-accumulative toxins discharged over decades have found their way into marine sediments--where they contaminate succeeding generations of the organisms at the base of the food web. 

In short, like the nation's coasts in general, our waters and sediments are polluted, our estuary, shoreline and aquatic habitats have been lost and damaged, and our marine resources have been mismanaged. 

Environmental protection efforts began in earnest about 30 years ago, with the passage of state and federal environmental policy, clean air, clean water, coastal zone and shoreline management acts. As a result, many projects approved since that time have caused less damage than they might have. But with the sheer number of development activities, the disappointing failures of "mitigation" as a management tool, and our long-term legacy of toxic pollution and habitat loss, the past 30 years, especially the last 20, have actually seen a dramatic decline in the health of the marine ecosystem. 

We have now reached the point where not only salmon, but the forage fish that salmon eat, and the orca whales that eat salmon are all on the brink of extinction. 

Regaining productive, healthy oceans will require restoration. If we try to maintain current conditions--itself a challenge, given all the pressures we face--our marine ecosystem won't make it. If we continue to "balance" ecosystem damage with hoped-for mitigation--our marine ecosystem won't make it.

A Call to Restore the Marine Ecosystem 
Testimony of Kathy Fletcher 
Executive Director, People For Puget Sound 
Before the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy 
June 13, 2002 
Seattle, Washington

Remove the Sickness

I had been dancing and had fallen to the ground exhausted. As I lay there, sleeping, I heard a medicine man singing far, far away, and my mind traveled toward the voice. Evil medicine men seemed to swarm around me, but always there was someone behind me who whispered, “Pay no attention to them, for they are evil.” And I prayed constantly to Him Who Dwells Above, asking for power to heal the sick, not cause sickness as did these evil ones. 

I reached the place where the medicine man was singing, a house unlike any that I had ever seen before. He who was behind me whispered, “Go inside. This is he for whom you are seeking, the true medicine man for whom you have undergone penance all these years.” 

I entered. The medicine man was kneeling on the floor, and beside him was his water in some mystic vessel that was neither a dish nor a basket. He turned and looked at me. “Poor boy,” he said. “so you have come at last. Kneel down beside me.” 

I knelt beside him. In front of us appeared every sickness that afflicts mankind, concentrated in a single human being. “Wash your hands and wrists in this water.” I washed them. He grasped them in his own and messaged them, giving them power. “Now lay your hands on that sickness and remove it.” I laid my hands to the patient and cupped his sickness out with them. He rose to his feet, cured. “That is how you shall remove every sickness. You shall chant the song you have heard me sing and cup out the sickness with your hands. Now go.”

Keepers of the Totem (Time-Life Books)/ Coast Salish Shaman
Western Hemlock

Among the Kwakiutl, [the original people of northern Washington and north into Canada] the spirit of this tree is known as "Sore Healing Woman." Bark from hemlock roots was traditionally used to heal mouth sores and burns, and was valued as a decoction to cure diarrhea. Like the other tribes of North America, the Kwakiutl always used prayer along with medicinal plants for healing. 

Some coastal [First] peoples made special ceremonial costumes for shamans and initiates from the boughs of Western Hemlock. Young Saanich women rubbed the dye on their faces as a cosmetic and reportedly to remove facial hair. Dancers of Kwakwaka'wakw and other coastal nations wore skirts, headdresses and head-bands of hemlock boughs, and pubescent girls lived in hemlock bough huts for four days after their first mentruation. Many peoples used the boughs as scrubbers for ritual bathing and purification; the Nlaka'pamux name for Western Hemlock means "scrubber plant". 

Tsuga heterophylla (Western Hemlock) is a species of hemlock native to the west coast of North America, with its northwestern limit on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska, and its southeastern limit in northern Sonoma County, California. It is a large evergreen coniferous tree growing to 50-70 m (164-230 feet) tall, exceptionally 78 m (256 feet), and with a trunk diameter of up to 2.7 m (9 feet). It is the largest species of hemlock. The bark is brown, thin and furrowed. The crown is a very neat broad conic shape in young trees with a strongly drooping lead shoot, becoming cylindric in older trees; old trees may have no branches in the lowest 30-40 m. At all ages, it is readily distinguished by the pendulous branchlet tips. The leaves are needle-like,are mid to dark green above; the underside has two distinctive white bands of stomata with only a narrow green midrib between the bands. 

The edible cambium can be collected by scraping slabs of removed bark. The resulting shavings can be eaten immediately, or can be dried and pressed into cakes for preservation. The bark also serves as a source of tannin for tanning.

Western Hemlock is the state tree of Washington.

1. Sacred Trees/Nathaniel Altman 

2. Plant Technology of First Peoples in British Columbia/Nancy J. Turner 


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