Agreement reached on cleanup of 25-mile Savannah River Site stream corridor

January 31, 2022, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions
An SRNS subcontractor technician takes radiological readings of soil near Lower Three Runs, part of a major project to complete the cleanup of a contaminated 25-mile-long stream corridor at SRS. (Photo: DOE) (CLICK TO SEE FULL PHOTO)

Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS), the Department of Energy’s management and operating contractor for the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, has reached an agreement with the state of South Carolina and federal environmental regulators on the final cleanup of a 25-mile-long stream corridor at the site that was radiologically contaminated as a result of operations during the Cold War.

The corridor consists of Par Pond, nine miles of canals adjacent to the pond, and a stream named Lower Three Runs. The stream begins near the center of the site, just above Par Pond, and winds its way southward across SRS.

The agreement: According to SRNS, the record of decision (ROD) agreement specifies what protective and cleanup actions are required, along with assurances of long-term monitoring to ensure that the corridor remains within environmentally safe standards. The ROD acknowledges the completion of a comprehensive cleanup strategy following the decommissioning and closure of Savannah River’s P and R areas, the company said. Operations involving P and R reactor facilities had contributed to the contamination of the Lower Three Runs stream corridor.

“This is the first record of decision that we’ve ever agreed upon with the regulators and the public that outlines the final closure for a large parcel of stream systems,” said Chris Bergren, SRNS director of environmental cleanup and area closure projects. “We’ve accomplished much of the cleanup related to this part of the site over the years, and now we have determined the remaining actions necessary to achieve final cleanup.”

The work: SRNS engineer and project technical lead Jim Kupar explained that much of the remaining work involves ensuring that fencing and signage are in place to warn site workers and the public of potential hazards. “Though it is illegal for the public to cross the fencing onto SRS, our first priority is always their safety,” Kupar said. “This will be especially true when we work to remove the few areas of elevated contamination in the canal system, beginning in 2023.”

Kupar said that surveying 25 miles of waterways, especially Lower Three Runs, was often challenging and sometimes potentially hazardous. “We used aerial detection equipment, along with taking on-site readings every 1,000 meters along Lower Three Runs, often involving difficult terrain,” he said. “Tripping hazards, feral hogs, snakes, spiders, and bees could appear at any time. Though the survey is complete and active controls are now in place, we continue to conduct inspections along the stream corridor.”

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