SRS deer and off-site crops pose no health risk; fish warrant caution

Residents living near Savannah River Site face no health risks from eating plants or animals produced in that vicinity, but should be wary of consuming large amounts of fish from the Savannah River, according to a new study.


In a 228-page public health assessment released last week, the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry also concluded venison from deer taken during SRS hunts would not expose those who eat it to unsafe levels of radioactive contamination.

The ATSDR, as an advisory agency, conducts such studies at areas — such as SRS — that are on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Priority List because of contamination or sites in need of cleanup or remediation.

The 310-square-mile installation was used for decades in the manufacture of materials for nuclear weapons. The assessment, which is out for public comment through Oct. 10, covers the time period from 1993 to 2008, which is after production activities ceased, but when waste storage and cleanup continued at the site.

The fish studies found that eating large amounts of bowfin, largemouth bass and catfish from certain portions of the river could increase risks of mercury exposure, especially among children. However, following consumption advisories in place by both South Carolina and Georgia would help avoid any problems.

The study also found that long-lived species, such as turtles, can accumulate larger volumes of contaminants, but there was insufficient data to determine if they pose a threat, or whether they are likely to move off-site to areas where they would be harvested and eaten.

Read the entire report:


Conclusion 1. Based on information reviewed by ATSDR, the general population is not exposed to harmful levels of radioactive contaminants if they eat off-site crops, livestock, and wild game harvested or produced near SRS.

Conclusion 2. Consuming large amounts of largemouth bass, bowfin, and catfish from certain portions of the Savannah River might increase health risks, especially to sensitive populations (e.g., pregnant and nursing mothers and children), because of the level of mercury detected. The levels of other metals in fish from the Savannah River and its tributaries will not harm people’s health.

Conclusion 3. ATSDR cannot make a definitive public health conclusion about nonmetal contaminants in biota (e.g., pesticides and PCBs), some of which have been detected in the ambient environment at SRS.