Originally created 11/29/00

Barnes: State, DOE near deal on study

The U.S. Department of Energy and the state of Georgia have come closer to resolving a dispute over funding for a study of ground-water quality, both sides said Tuesday.

U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said he planned to provide money to complete the study, over which the federal agency and the state have squabbled for more than a year.

"I told the governor that I wanted to be a good neighbor," Mr. Richardson said during his visit to Augusta to commemorate Savannah River Site's 50th anniversary. "I intend to honor my commitment."

Gov. Roy Barnes, who sent a terse letter to the secretary last year about the issue, said the two sides had worked to end the debate.

"I've been very concerned about that," the governor said during his own visit to SRS on Tuesday. "They've been cooperative, and we're making progress."

"I've been very concerned about that," the governor said during a visit to Augusta on Tuesday. "They've been cooperative, and we're making progress."

Georgia wants the Energy Department to pay $1 million to continue a study to determine whether polluted ground water from SRS could seep beneath the river into the state's aquifers.

The Energy Department has said that earlier phases of the study proved that such ground-water migration was unlikely, and that further research is not needed.

Concerns about possible ground-water migration were raised after radioactive tritium was found in some Burke County wells. The Energy Department states that the tritium came from previous airborne releases from SRS, not from contaminated ground water at the federal nuclear-weapons site.

During a speech Tuesday to SRS employees, Mr. Barnes praised the site's efforts to clean up chemical and radioactive contamination caused by its Cold War production efforts.

"We have to face the realities, and SRS has faced the realities."

Besides speaking to SRS employees, the governor toured the site's Savannah River Ecology Laboratory. The lab, recognized as one of the world's foremost ecological resources, is a joint effort of the Energy Department and the University of Georgia.

"I'm very impressed with it," Mr. Barnes said of the lab. "I think it's a world-class facility, and I'm proud that it's affiliated with the University of Georgia."

Reach Brandon Haddock at (706) 823-3409.


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