Are you familiar with the Savannah River Site? Many South Carolinians aren’t, but if you are from Aiken or Barnwell County, you may have in one way or another been associated with the site whether it be through a long line of family history or as a source of income.
The Savannah River Site (SRS), a 310 square mile area located 20 miles south of Aiken was a large producer of nuclear weapon materials during the Cold War. Due to nuclear material testing and lack of environmental regulation during the Cold War era, the SRS property has been contaminated with radioactive material. Today, its focus is on environmental remediation.
|Before and after photos of R Reactor at SRS as the focus of the site shifted from production to remediation|
SRS scientists have sampled the air, water, soil, and wildlife for many years. However, to have a verification system for SRS’s annual data, the Department of Energy- Savannah River partnered with DHEC to create the Environmental Surveillance and Oversight Program (ESOP). ESOP is a division of DHEC specific to its Midlands Aiken Environmental Affairs Office. Since 1995, DHEC’s ESOP team has conducted independent, non-regulatory monitoring of SRS.
Members of the ESOP team work to collect and analyze samples of air, water, soil, sediment, vegetation, milk, fish, and game. DHEC scientists take samples at the site, around its perimeter, and in background locations. Depending on the environmental media type, availability, and weather, samples are gathered 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.
|DHEC scientist collecting water samples on the Savannah River|
Each year, DHEC publishes an annual report that highlights the previous year’s sampling results of the Savannah River Site. The report’s findings are made 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 2019 ESOP Data Report and 2019 Raw Data Excel File on its website: https://scdhec.gov/environment/pollution-types-advisories-monitoring/pollution-monitoring-services-advisories/monitoring-8. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Savannah River Site. (August 29, 2012). Saltstone Type 2 Tanks [Photograph]. Savannah River Site. https://www.flickr.com/photos/51009184@N06/8057139609/in/album-72157631519292000/ Savannah River Site. (November 24, 2010). SRS at 60 – R Reactor [Photograph]. Savannah River Site. https://www.flickr.com/photos/51009184@N06/5228298108/in/album-72157631519358714/