Researchers are starting an environmental monitoring program in the Georgia community of Shell Bluff.
The community is south of Augusta on the Savannah River, near a nuclear power plant and a federal nuclear facility. Some residents are worried about the potential for contamination.
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“We’ve been concerned, ever since my father died with cancer,” said Anne Lively Pitcher. Her father worked at the Savannah River Site, which is just over the river, in South Carolina. He died young, she said, in the 1950s. Her family goes way back in Shell Bluff, to the 1750s.
Pitcher came to a community meeting in Waynesboro on Monday night to learn more about plans to monitor for possible contamination from the two nearby nuclear facilities. She was with her sister, Deana Lively Keefer.
“This is our heritage,” said Keefer. “This is what our children and grandchildren will inherit later on.”
“Our church has been there for, what is it, 273 years now,” Pitcher added. “So it’s important to us. It’s all important to us.”
South Carolina has a monitoring program in place. And Rob Pope, a remedial project manager for the cleanup of hazardous waste and nuclear waste sites with the U.S. EPA, said there are air and water monitors up and down the Savannah River. But he said there hasn’t been monitoring focused right in Shell Bluff since the early 2000s.
“At this point, we don’t see any reason for concern, but there still are concerns,” Pope said. “So we’re trying to see if we can gather enough data. Are those concerns valid, or are those concerns just a perception? We just don’t know the answer to that, and so we’re going to address it.”
The Savannah River Ecology Laboratory (SREL), which is run by the University of Georgia, will conduct tests on people’s soil, water and food beginning later this year.
It will also work with local middle schoolers, to teach them about environmental monitoring and get them involved in the project. The U.S. EPA is focusing on community outreach in the area. And the advocacy group Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions is collaborating with SREL.