Red Flag News – January 12, 2014
This week the east coast has been hit with a number of chemical and radioactive disasters that contaminated local communities. A chemical spill in West Virginia this week left hundreds of thousands of people without water, and thousands sick. Now it has been reported that a radioactive plume is leaking from a site in South Carolina.
The Barnell Nuclear site occupies about 235 acres of land originally owned by Chem-Nuclear Systems (CNS). Disposal of waste began at the facility in 1971 and Chem-Nuclear Systems (CNS), currently owned by Energy Solutions, has been the sole operator since that time.
According to WLTX, 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. Tritium is a radioactive form of Hydrogen from nuclear waste, which can cause cancer and birth defects, if you come in contact with too much of it.
“DHEC has documented there is a plume leaking from the site but the problem with Tritium is it’s hard to re-mediate, 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.”
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.”
“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.”
A report published by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control shows that radioactive tritium is leaking from nuclear waste into the water supply in Aiken and Barnwell Counties, but the report remains that the levels are so low, it’s safe.
DHEC presented this information before the South Carolina Governor’s Nuclear Advisory Council earlier this month and we decided to take a closer look.
In the Chem-Nuclear Annual Update, it was learned that 27 monitoring locations were tested for tritium. Ten of which showed no evidence of tritium data trending up of down; 6 locations showed an upward trend and 11 locations showed a downward trend over the most recent five-year period.
The report also remains that in the places in which the water does test positive for tritium, all levels are below the federal safety guidelines and water with the highest concentration is on a part of the site that is completely shut off to the public and doesn’t flow into other water sources.
Tritium has a half life of twelve years, it takes ten half lives, or 120 years to be all gone.
To add to these enormous problems of nuclear leaks and now the financial mess, Georgia and South Carolina still have not settled their disagreements in regard as to who uses the most water from the joint-state Savannah River Basin Water Caucus. The caucus made up of legislators from counties that border the river, hopes to stave off lengthy and costly legal wrangling that South Carolina officials have threatened to take against Georgia recently over how much of the water each state gets to use.
The caucus and onlookers gathered on a small peninsula last September that juts into the lake in Hartwell, Ga., as Gov. Nikki Haley and Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal urged cooperation as the two states draft agreements that will have long-term impact on industries, drinking water, utilities and natural resources.
Both states have impetus to keep the issues out of court, where it could take decades to settle, water experts said. Georgia has been saddled for two decades with a string of court cases involving water issues with both Florida and Alabama, while South Carolina had its own brush with cross-state court action when the state sued North Carolina, alleging its neighbor was taking more than its fair share of water from the Catawba River to support Charlotte’s expansion. That case was eventually settled in 2010.
All of these issues seem to be just sitting there waiting for the next thing to happen. It would appear the leaking of the Tritium with the very large over run in expenses on the Savannah River Basin Nuclear Plant is creating a lot of headaches for a large amount of people.