In response to learning about decades-old shafts drilled thousands of feet below the surface at the Savannah River Site, a local advocacy group has called for a federal investigation into whether radioactive pollution may have infiltrated underground water supplies.
The Savannah River Site is near Aiken, S.C., across the Savannah River from Augusta, Ga.
In letters sent last week to both Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and Environmental Protection Agency Director Christine Whitman, Georgians for Clean Energy safe energy director Sara Barczak expressed concern about the large, steel-lined shafts excavated during the '60s and early '70s as part of a project examining on-site burial for nuclear waste.
Barczak wants to know if the shafts may have allowed contaminants from decades of plutonium production and other radiological activities at the site to seep into any of several aquifers that lie below.
According to Savannah River Site geologists, the shafts reach as deep as 4,000 feet beneath the ground.
"We want to see how far the contamination has gone through these boreholes because it would impact two states -- Georgia and South Carolina," wrote Barczak.
Further, she asks that the DOE "fund independent contractors to perform the work. Under no circumstances should any current or past SRS contractors be used due to possible conflict of interest."
Savannah River Site operations are contracted to Westinghouse. According to company officials, the waste-disposal plan has been long abandoned.
The tunnels, they say, have never been used for anything except monitoring groundwater, and pose no threat to the public.
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