HANFORD REACH > Oral Histories

Fran Wilson

It used to be just the Hanford facility. Now it’s so many different Alphabet Cities out there, I don't know which ones do what. And they still have little fences, but you can get around them; and they don’t have scary signs... Although there are cameras, if you're looking for them.

I got an offer from the hospital over here, a really good offer. Paid me a big bonus to hire, and paid all my moving expenses. And I didn't think I’d be here very long. And I knew all about Hanford when I moved here.

People that have lived here their whole life, which is most of the white people - [many of] the Latinos have migrated in - the white people that were born here, at least one of the members of their family works at the Area. So many people are employed. It’s huge. Of the people that I know, I don't know one who doesn't have a family member employed at Hanford. And: “This is how I got into the middle class. My dad had a job at Hanford. And that paid well, and got us vacations, and got us sick leave... That's why my teeth are good…”

If Hanford went out of business for some reason, this town would be dead. This area would be a ghost town. So many of the people in this town, including most of the stores, are dependent on Hanford and that Alphabet City for their livelihood. They keep their eyes closed and their head in the sand because to admit to the danger that’s here… What do they call that, identification with the aggressor? The “Stockholm Syndrome.” Well, that’s what everybody here has, you know.

I honestly don't believe that the government had any idea how dangerous nuclear power was. I think that they didn't know. And by the time they figured it out, it was too late.

And they don't want to panic people. They don’t want people to be afraid of it. They want people to think of it as a good thing. They want us to think that nuclear energy is safe. They’re always showing pictures of how the wildlife has come back. The Tri-City Herald, our local media, posts pictures of wildlife regularly, and how safe it is at Hanford now. But the fact is, it’s leaking into the river. And I don't know how much is leaking, how much has actually gotten to the river. But there is no way they can stop it, before it gets to the river.

We have this beautiful river, right here… It goes like a hairpin: comes down through Wenatchee, through George, makes a little turn and goes into Oregon, and goes back west. The Wanapum Dam is on the other side of Tri-Cities. And it comes down through Tri-Cities, and then it goes around a real sharp corner, on the way to Walla Walla. And then it turns back up and goes up past Hermiston and the Dalles... and to Portland. And when you live here, you just say, well, I could live in Portland; it would still be getting to me eventually. You know, there's no way to filter it out.

About a year ago, maybe two years ago, all these kids were being born with cleft palates, or spinal cord defects; a huge increase in the numbers. And a lot of us said, "Well, it’s happening up there in Yakima; that would be downwind from the Hanford plant." It happened all of a sudden. It increased, and then for maybe a few months, it stayed like that, and then they stopped talking about it. I’m not sure if it decreased, or not. They could never identify the cause. Weird stuff like that, when there’s maybe an emission...

If the government can't figure out how to stop this leak before it gets to the river… It’s moving too fast. The containers are leaking, and it’s moving too fast for them to stop it. And now, it's practically un-swimmable.

“Dilution is the Solution to Pollution;” that’s one of the little phrases that we’re stuck with... Try to go swimming in that river. When I see people with little kids swimming in that river, I don't understand how they can be so blind. But they say, “Well, I was a kid, and I swam in that river...”