Originally published on August 26, 2014, at NationofChange.org
Following an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigation, the U.S. Department of Labor ordered a government contractor to reinstate whistleblower Shelly Doss and pay $200,000 in back wages, attorney’s fees, and damages. The agency concluded government contractor Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS) had wrongfully terminated Doss for reporting federal and state environmental violations at the nuclear cleanup site at Hanford, Washington.
Along the banks of the Colombia River lie a series of decommissioned nuclear reactors known as the Hanford site. Built during WWII as part of the Manhattan Project, the reactors produced plutonium for nuclear weapons. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), creating plutonium produced massive amounts of nuclear byproducts that were not properly disposed of and unintentional spills of liquid waste have contaminated the site.
Two years after the last reactor ceased operation in 1987, the DOE, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Washington State Department of Ecology entered into a legally binding accord to clean up the toxic waste posing a risk to the local environment at Hanford. Notorious for ignoring evidence of leaking nuclear waste tanks and toxic exposure to their employees, DOE contractor WRPS fired Doss in 2011 for raising concerns about environmental safety and record-keeping violations to management and to government agencies.