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Savannah River Site advisory board recommends environmental monitoring in Georgia

Monday, Jan. 27, 2014 7:31 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014 12:52 AM
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Restoring a program to monitor radiation levels in Georgia counties near Savannah River Site continued to divide stakeholders Monday.

The SRS Citizen Advisory Board approved a recommendation urging the DOE to fund an environmental monitoring program in Georgia no later than 2016. The board wants DOE to meet with state officials before April to re-establish a program similar to South Carolina’s testing for air, water, wildlife and other materials.

The recommendation divided board members, some who wanted to represent the public’s concern for environmental monitoring and others who said there are better ways to spend money at the site.

“The site is struggling to get the important materials off site with the liquid waste program,” said board member Don Bridges. “They are struggling to deal with real issues and I am not sure this is a real issue.”

Reports compiled by SRS have shown no signs of public health hazards on either side of the Savannah River, but the absence of a monitoring program in Georgia has been a contentious issue for years.

DOE supported a Georgia program from 2001-2004 but discontinued funding in 2005, saying similar studies on the South Carolina side of the river were sufficient. In 2010, DOE offered to help Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division restore monitoring but budget restraints halted the offer.

More than a dozen anti-nuclear activists and several Burke County residents voiced concerns at Monday’s board meeting over the lack of environmental monitoring in Georgia.

“Protecting the public is a particularly good place for that money,” said Amanda Hill-Attkisson, program director of Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions. “If the priority at the site is not to handle the waste safely and where it protects the citizens, then that’s not an accurate mission of the site.”

Augusta resident Bill Lawless opposed the recommendation, saying funding a monitoring program in Georgia was an improper use of federal money.

“There are far more important things to worry about at the site than help Georgia Department of Natural Resources do something like this,” Lawless said.

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