Citizens looking for answers to nuclear plant’s wastewater plans

It was a fairly positive atmosphere on Saturday afternoon at the Pentecostal Church on Golf Course Road. The Fairfield County Progressive Citizens (FCPC) met to discuss their concerns over the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit (#SC0049131), issued to VC Summer Nuclear Station by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), which they claim authorizes the nuclear plant to dump contaminated wastewater into the Broad River.

According to the DHEC Bureau of Water, “The permit regulates discharges of sanitary wastewater, low-volume waste, cooling tower blowdown, and alternate mixing water (Monticello Reservoir water) from one discharge point to the Broad River at the Parr Reservoir.”

The FCPC, under the leadership of Dr. E. Sutton, allege the department failed to provide full public disclosure of the June 19 meeting with South Carolina Electric and Gas (SCE&G). The group also claims DHEC made the decision to issue the permit to the nuclear power plant prior to meeting with the public and area residents to hear their concerns. The permit, as found on the DHEC Web site does not confirm the date of issue or expiration.

Also a security employee at the nuclear plant, Sutton further explained that the wastewater discharge may contain traces of Tritium and could be a possible health risk to residents. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Exposure to tritium increases the risk of developing cancer.” The EPA further explains, “People who live near or work in nuclear fuel cycle facilities may have increased exposure. Because it emits very low energy radiation and leaves the body relatively quickly, for a given amount of activity ingested, tritium is one of the least dangerous radionuclides.”

County Councilman Kamau Marcharia, who represents the Jenkinsville area, expressed his apprehension and concerns over unforeseen health risks to local residents, “this [Fairfield] is the dumping ground for whatever,” he shared to the room of nodding heads.

According to the Councilman, the discharged water will be treated, then sold back to five water companies in the state — two private companies and three under federal regulation — and later sold to the area residents for consumption and use. Marcharia also expressed his frustration with DHEC’s communication and how little knowledge his district and county residents had of the June hearing.

Also in attendance Saturday was Mel Jenkins, a member of the Sierra Club and Executive Director of two environment advocacy groups in Richland County. The Rosewood community resident gave insight into environmental justice and policy issues he believes South Carolinians face. According to Jenkins, as the Broad River runs from North Carolina, through Fairfield and Columbia, the wastewater discharge could not only affect Fairfield County residents, but also neighboring communities, including Richland County.

Jenkins provided the group with the initial public notice dated May 18 (#12-063-H), where DHEC confirms a notification (March 30, #12-040-N), advising notifying the public of the June meeting “in response to public interest.” The document and an mp3 audio of the meeting can be found on the DHEC website.

The last day for written public comment to the department was at the close of business on July 9. The Voice of Fairfield was unable to reach DHEC for comment.