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Richland Company Working On Ground Water Sensor

A carcinogen called hexavalent chromium has been an environmental problem in many places, from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation to groundwater in California.

Remember Erin Brockovich?

Hexavalent chromium is expensive to monitor underground. Now, a Richland company is testing a new real-time sensor that could help clean-up contaminated sites around the world.

Hexavalent chromium was used a lot at Hanford to reduce rusting in the cooling pipes of nuclear reactors in the race to make plutonium. Freestone Environmental Services is trying to pack a whole lab’s worth of equipment into a two-and-a-half-feet-long tube, that’s less than two inches across.

The company recently landed a $1 million federal grant to further develop the sensor. Researchers lower it down into deep wells and send lots of data back to the office.

Dan Tyler is the president of Freestone Environmental Services. He says the aim is to help managers make better real-time decisions. “One of our hopes is that the sensor will be used both at cleanup sites where they are remediating chromium contamination, but also could be used around public supply wells.”

Tyler says he hopes that his company will be deploying more sensors for demonstration projects by this time next year.

On the Web:

Hexavalent chromium overview - Occupational Safety & Health Administration
Chromium in drinking water - EPA

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.