As you can see by viewing the Clara Hartley journal, water testing of our local environment is not a new practice. In the Edward C. Dunlop papers from our collections are records detailing analysis of waters in the Columbia River. But for what purpose?
Dunlop was a chemist who spent over 39 years with DuPont. During World War II, Dunlop was part of the highly secretive Manhattan Project. In 1943 he began a series of tests on the untreated water of the Columbia River. Hanford, in Washington State, sits on the banks of the Columbia and was chosen in 1942 as a Manhattan Project site for the manufacture of uranium and plutonium. The river waters were used to cool reactors at the Hanford Site.
Before operations at the plant began, Dunlop tested both treated and untreated water from the Columbia for a variety of contaminants at the parts-per-million level. Dunlop outlined not only his findings but his methods and instrumentation, including the development of new techniques.
Today, government reports have shown that the Columbia River has been affected by the work of the Manhattan Project: released radiation was discovered as far downstream as the Washington and Oregon coasts, and fish in the river have been contaminated by the release of iodine. Dunlop’s papers demonstrate the rigors of testing even in the 1940s and list the various levels of radiation in the Columbia River during the Manhattan Project’s period of interaction with Hanford. The lasting effects of this period teach us that continued testing and analysis of the river remain important.