In a press conference Friday afternoon, Gov. Jay Inslee said he was told of the leak this morning and spoke over the phone with U.S. Energy Department chief Steven Chu.
Inslee said he would not rule out legal action if it was necessary to force the federal government to secure the tanks and clean up any leaked radioactive waste. Officials cautioned that the leak posed no immediate health hazard to people living in area.
Inslee said he had heard unconfirmed reports that the tank in question may have been leaking for several years. Officials estimate that it is leaking about 200 to 300 gallons a year.
The leak was discovered in a 530,000-gallon underground storage tank built in the 1940s. It is one of 177 tanks at the Hanford site, according to a statement released by the Department of Energy.
“This is one leaker, but we got a bunch of old tanks out there and this is one reason we are so concerned about this,” Inlsee said. “This presents a real risk that we need to categorize, assess and have a response to.”