Archive for September 1st, 2009

National Register of Historic Dumps

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

Hanford landfill, flags mark discoveriesI don’t mean that in the Bette Davis sense. I mean in the actual trash heap sense. Two World War II-era dumps in Richland, Washington are eligible to be added to the National Register of Historic Places because of who generated the garbage and what they were doing there.

The 50,000 people who moved there during the war, living in tents first, then barracks they built, didn’t exactly know what they were doing, but it turns out they were building a plutonium reactor to arm “Fat Man”, the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki.

Now the dumps are being excavated to study the social history aspect of the Manhattan Project.

Men were separated from women in two barracks. Most of their domestic waste was burned, but glass waste remains. Atop one landfill: scattered whiskey and blue Milk of Magnesia bottles, proof that they worked hard and played hard. [...]

Research shows that at least one of the Hanford landfills could be the prototype for sanitary military landfills established during the World War II period, Marceau said. Archaeologists hope to study patterns of waste disposal from male and female workers, or black and white workers.

“Is there anything different in this community relative to other World War II communities during the war?” Marceau asked. “That’s what we want to know.”

Local tribes are also interested to see what might be underneath the trash. The dumps were created on archaeologically sensitive native lands as there was no protection for it at that time.

Archaeologists have already uncovered pithouses — sunken buildings roofed with rocks or wood — along with fire hearths and clamshells used to scrape deer hides.

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