Hanford Reach: In The Atomic Field > Oral Histories

I think that what's going on right now at Hanford, it's very secretive. I don't think the government wants people in this area to know the dangers to the Columbia River. And if it is leaching into the waters, I don't think they would be honest enough to tell us.

They've had some incidents of exposure out there to a lot of people. One of those tunnels that they buried collapsed. And I'm sure that there was radiation that was released, but they don't tell us. They don't want us to know. They don't want to be liable for the mistakes that they made. Before they started this project they knew what the dangers were with radiation, and that it doesn't dissipate, that it lasts for thousands of years…

I was born and raised in Walla Walla Washington; I was born in 1938 and I moved to Tri-Cities in 1957. And I was unaware of the term "downwinder."

Twenty-five years ago I visited a doctor. He noticed I had a nodule on my thyroid that could possibly be malignant, and asked a lot of questions about how long I’d lived in the area. He said, “Well, you could have been exposed to radiation, and you would've been a downwinder, because you lived in Walla Walla.” And I'm also a sarcoid patient. And he said that, too, could be caused from the Hanford radiation. The drift could have gone as far as Walla Walla, and anything that was produced here in the area that was consumed, like fruits, vegetables, and especially milk, because the cows were grazing and then they were milking the cows… He said sometimes it was in the milk produced here, and if I had consumed the milk that might be a possibility...

A lot of people in Walla Walla should have been exposed. I don't know if they were aware of the class-action lawsuit, or if they pursued it. I think they felt nothing was going to be done.

So I decided for the benefit of others to submit the paperwork and have them research to see if there was any connection between the radiation exposure and sarcoid. Because sarcoid is supposedly a hereditary disease, but there was no one in my family that had sarcoid. Since then, in the last ten years, my daughter has developed sarcoid. My daughter has it. And she's doing worse than I am.

They finally said there was a settlement, and they would give me X amount of dollars. When it came time to pay, they decided to cut it in half; I think that I got around four to five hundred dollars. And I was more upset that they didn't mention anything about research. The attorney, he worked with the DOE, or whoever is in charge out there at Hanford.

A lot of people died of cancer, and they did get larger settlements; that didn't help them, since they were dead. I feel fortunate that I didn't die from the exposure but like I said, I didn't work ever at Hanford. And I didn't live in the Tri-Cities until 1957.

Anybody that tries to get to the bottom of the facts jeopardizes their life, because they want to silence them. They don't want to be exposed.

They need to be exposed, and we need to know what the real dangers are. If there are certain times where they’re doing something that, the dangers could be worse: maybe they should say, "Stay indoors." They need to make us aware if there's a danger. But they don't tell when there's a problem here with radiation.

Everything is secret. It's all about money. It doesn't matter about you, or me, or anyone else's health. No. It's about money… It's about money.

It's no different with the water that we drink. I used to drink the water, and then we started buying bottled water, and I thought, I don't know where it's coming from. So I bought a machine; the Japanese perfected it many years ago. I would recommend [to] people who live here: get on a water machine.

I think they're oblivious; I think unless somebody sounded an alert, they don't think about it. If there was an alert sounded they might pay attention... Because there's no warnings, they figure everything's fine. Even though we all, deep down, know there are times when it's not…