Get to know DHEC’s Environmental Surveillance and Oversight Program (ESOP)

Beginning in 1995, the Midlands Aiken Environmental Affairs office of DHEC became the home base for Environmental Surveillance and Oversight Program (ESOP) . This program was established through an agreement between the Department of Energy-Savannah River (DOE-SR) and DHEC to provide non-regulatory, environmental monitoring of the Savannah River Site, a post-Cold War-era nuclear material production facility that is on a 310-square mile area located 20 miles south of Aiken.

Though SRS’s current focus is on environmental remediation, past nuclear material testing and limited Cold War-era environmental policy resulted in the SRS property being contaminated with radioactive material. DHEC interacts with SRS through ESOP’s monitoring and in a regulatory manner by making sure current operations are protecting the air, land, and water through Environmental Affairs and the Federal Facility Agreement. To learn more about ESOP, FFA, and the different Environmental Affairs bureaus’ policies related to SRS, visit the new DHEC webpage devoted to all things Savannah River Site.

Due to historic operations at SRS contaminating the property, ESOP project managers collect and analyze samples of air, water, soil, sediment, vegetation, milk, fish, and game in areas on the site, around its perimeter, and in background locations. Depending on the environmental media type, availability, and weather, samples are gathered tri-weekly, weekly, quarterly, biannually, and/or annually. DHEC tests the material collected for alpha, beta, and gamma radiation, as well as for non-radiological chemicals. Most of the testing is performed at the State Park lab in Columbia, but some samples are analyzed in the Aiken Office laboratory.

Grab your popcorn and watch ESOP’s newly released video highlighting the team’s efforts in the field, lab, and office.

DHEC publishes an annual report each year that highlights ESOP’s previous year’s sampling results of SRS. The report’s findings are available online and are presented to the public through SRS’s Citizens Advisory Board meetings and at local schools, organizations, and events.

Recently, DHEC released the 2020 ESOP Data Report and 2020 Raw Data Excel File on its website. The publication provides the data collected by DHEC, displays historical trends, and compares DHEC and DOE-SR data for overlapping sample locations.

For inquiries about the report, data, and outreach opportunities, please reach out to Grace Anne Martin at martinga@dhec.sc.gov.

Here’s some photos of ESOP in action!

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