South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

SCELP argues before Court of Appeals for more containment at Barnwell nuclear site
February 5th, 2014

Columbia, SC (WLTX) - The South Carolina Sierra Club asked a South Carolina appeals court to make operators at a nuclear waste site in Barnwell do more to minimize contaminated runoff water.

The site takes waste from three states including South Carolina, but DHEC confirms a ground water plume contaminated with waste product Tritium is traveling away from the site.

The plume's concentration is below an EPA compliance standard but above a drinking water standard. It has reached Mary's Branch Creek, which DHEC has closed to swimming and drinking.

The Sierra Club says the operator of the site, Chem-Nuclear, hasn't done enough to contain the plume. They want more coverings on waste vaults and tighter seals in an effort to contain potentially dangerous material.

"Every low level nuclear waste site has leaked and it's because of water coming into contact with the waste," said Susan Corbett, Chair of the South Carolina Sierra Club. "So, if you don't want these sites to leak, you have to find a way to keep the water from coming into contact with the waste."

The Barnwell site operator argues they're in compliance with state regulations, which were last revised in 1995. They say they've also made updates over the last two decades to further contain any potential runoff.

During court proceedings Wednesday, lawyers for DHEC and Chem-Nuclear said they now use a high intensity material to contain waste before it's put into the vaults which are then buried in the ground trenches.

"We want Chem-Nuclear to live up to the regulation that requires the minimization of water coming in contact with the low level waste and allowing it to migrate off site," said Sierra Club's Corbett.

Judges said arguments were well delivered and that they'd returnan opinion in the coming weeks.

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