Some Richland Co. residents worried about their water after recent uranium leaks

Some Richland Co. residents worried about their water after recent uranium leaks

COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) – Virginia Sanders is a Richland County resident and lives five miles away from the Westinghouse Fuel Facility.

She is just one of many community members that learned during a meeting last Monday between Westinghouse and the Department of Health and Environmental Control that last month’s uranium leak wasn’t the first.

“This is water people bathe in and we’re not sure if any of it is safe,” she said.

Reports from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission show uranium also leaked through the plant’s flooring back in 2011.

People nearby now worry uranium could get into their water supply and they’re demanding a clean-up. However, it’s possible any type of clean-up won’t happen for another 40 years if the NRC grants the company another license.

Sanders is part of the environmentalist group The Sierra Club and says they’re hoping to intervene.

“We are putting together a letter to send to the regulatory commission asking that the process of licensing to stop,” said Sanders.

However, a USC nuclear engineer professor Travis Knight says uranium is natural to the environment and the risk of danger is low.

“That’s far overkill,” said Knight. “The amount of material is small and contained. (It) does not pose a threat to the publicthe environment.”

NRC reports show clean-up would require excavating 10 feet of soil below the building and Westinghouse says that’s an expensive process.

Meanwhile, Sanders says she and her neighbors want reassurance.

“I’m not an expert but we can get experts to come and give us this knowledge to inform the people here as to why they should be looking as far as their health is concerned,” she said.

The Friends of the Earth environmentalist group sent a request to the NRC to put a hold on relicensing so clean-up can happen sooner, but DHEC says if uranium from last month’s leak seeps into the groundwater, it would flow away from the home and toward the Congaree River.

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