This week’s Whistleblower Spotlight features Hanford whistleblower Dr. Walter Tamosaitis, who blew the whistle on shaky clean up plans at Hanford nuclear site in Washington. Dr. Tamosaitis was designing a way to immobilize millions of gallons of toxic and radioactive liquid waste when he discovered the Energy Department’s plans to treat the waste were extremely unsafe. He discovered that plans to mix the toxic chemicals together in the multi-billion dollar waste treatment plant could start a spontaneous nuclear reaction.
He brought his concerns to his employer, government contractor URS (later acquired by AECOM Technology Corp.), and within a few days – and despite spending 44 years at the company – he was removed from his management position at Hanford, escorted off the property, and assigned to a basement office at URS where he was assigned no meaningful work for nearly a year and a half. He was eventually let go for an alleged “lack of work.”
His company may have tried to silence him, but independent federal safety investigators and senior Energy Department officials listened. After filing a federal lawsuit for retaliation and speaking with government investigators, the Energy Department in 2013 ordered a halt to the construction of two massive processing facilities at Hanford fearing safety concerns over the plant’s design.
Dr. Tamosaitis is not the only whistleblower who raised serious concerns at Hanford. Shelly Dos raised numerous environmental, safety and radiation-related issues with management at the site. Ms. Doss filed a retaliation case against WRPS, a subsidiary of URS Corporation, and was eventually reinstated to her position and paid $220,000 in back wages and punitive damages.
This week, AECOM paid Dr. Walter Tamosaitis $4.1m to settle his retaliation claims. Dr. Tamosaitis expressed his relief that the ordeal had come to a close, saying “it was something I lived with every minute of every day over the last five years…hopefully, I have sent a message to young engineers to keep their honesty, integrity and courage intact.”
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