Citing what they say is the "absolute failure" of Washington River Protection Services (WRPS) to adequately address vapor health issues at the Hanford Tank Farms, a major union has brought work to a standstill.

HAMTC, or Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council, has declared what is being called a standing stop work at the tank farms. HAMTC officials have sent a letter to WRPS stating what needs to be done to ensure workers will be protected from vapors that have sickened at least 52 people so far this year. The stoppage began Monday.

For decades, say union officials, Hanford leaders have known about the vapors emitting from the 177 storage tanks at the site, and a number of workers are now suffering various health issues from inhaling or exposure to the fumes.

At least 7 major safety steps need to be carried out, say union officials, including workers wearing SCBA (Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus) anywhere near the farm, not just in certain areas where vapors are known to be present.

The standing stop work order literally means workers have stopped working on various projects until the safety demands are met. No immediate word was available from WRPS officials.