DHEC Confirms Nuclear Plume Moving Off Barnwell Site

9:22 PM, Jan 9, 2014   |    comments
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Columbia, SC (WLTX) -The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) confirmed to the Governor's Nuclear Advisory Council a plume of radioactive Tritium is in the groundwater.

"DHEC has documented there is a plume leaking from the site but the problem with Tritium is it's hard to remediate, it's hard to clean it up," said Tom Clements, Southeast Nuclear Campaign Coordinator for Friends of the Earth.  "So we have to look at ways to stop it from leaking from the dump."

Clements says DHEC's annual updates monitor the plume, but fail to provide a long term solution on how to keep ground water safe.

The plume is moving off the Barnwell Nuclear site southwest toward the Savannah River Site.  Traces of Tritium have also been found in Mary's Branch Creek.

"About 95 percent of the 235 acres are under institutional care," said site director Michael Benjamin. 

The site receives toxic waste from South Carolina, New Jersey, and Connecticut and have enough land to stay open through 2038.

"The problem is in their annual updates, there's no plan to address the leaks," Clements said.  "We need to make sure the facility is capped off in a better way and better managed so there is less nuclear material leaking."

DHEC's Susan Jenkins told the advisory council that the "site is in compliance" and says the latest measurements show the amount of Tritium below a federal compliance level. 

However, Clements points out that recorded level is much higher than federal drinking water standards.

"It combines with oxygen to form basically radioactive water.  So, it gets everywhere in the environment," Clements said.  "The level was far above the drinking water standard but fortunately it doesn't look like anyone is drinking the water."




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