No cleanup planned for contamination

Radiation levels in some of the test wells at Barnwell's nuclear waste site have been increasing, but regulators say there are no plans for a clean up.
The State newspaper reported in December about a meeting of the Governor's Nuclear Advisory Council during which Susan Jenkins, with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, shared data showing some of the test sites had water with unsafe levels of radioactive material. The material, tritium, comes from leaking burial pits at the site.
Jenkins said there were no plans for a cleanup because no one is drinking the contaminated water and a clean up operation could lead to air pollution and expose people to radiation, according to The State.
According to DHEC's 2012 annual report about the site, there were 27 wells evaluated for changes in tritium concentrations.
The report states 11 wells show no evidence of an up or down trend in levels, seven show an upward trend and nine show a downward trend. The trends are for the most recent five-year period.
The People-Sentinel reviewed the most recent data about the site and contacted DHEC asking for some clarity about the issue. In an email, DHEC spokesman Jim Beasley relayed information. DHEC reiterated that no one is drinking the contaminated water. DHEC monitors wells at the site and private wells off site, according to the email.
The email said levels of tritium in private wells are below safe drinking levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency, and that "private wells do not appear to be impacted by site operations."
Radiation does occur naturally in the environment.
Mary's Branch Creek runs from the site and eventually into the Savannah River, which is a primary source of drinking water for communities downstream. DHEC said tritium levels in the river are checked three times a week at 13 locations within and outside SRS boundaries. Six streams flowing into the river are also monitored.
One question The People-Sentinel ­asked is: What would warrant a clean up of the site? DHEC said it's a complicated question and would have a speculative answer involving several variables.
The Chem-Nuc;ear site began accepting radioactive waste in 1971 and is currently owned and operated by Utah based Energy Solutions.
For more information about the site and to view data about tritium levels, visit http://www.scdhec.gov/environment/lwm/html/Chem_Nuclear.htm.