AUGUSTA — Don Bridges, who finished his term as the Savannah River Site's Citizens Advisory Board chair on Monday, said a separate environmental monitoring program for the Georgia-side of the Site is not a “real issue.”

The board approved a recommendation requesting a separate environmental monitoring program during its bimonthly meeting on Monday. Approval came in a 15-3 vote after a heated discussion during Monday's CAB meeting.

Some Georgia residents feel that the state should have a program similar to the one in South Carolina that monitors tritium levels, radiation and other forms of exposure. Bridges disagreed, stating that the program is sufficient enough for both sides of the river.

“To suggest we need a parallel and separate monitoring system doesn't seem responsible,” Bridges said. “The Site is struggling to take care of liquid waste and other real issues. In my opinion, this is not a real issue.”

Members of Georgia group Women's Action for New Direction disagreed with Bridges' comments and cited an April 13, 2010, Department of Energy press release in which it agreed to fund a program.

The release states, “The Department of Energy today announced its intention to fund additional independent environmental monitoring of the Savannah River Site by the State of Georgia.”

Amanda Hill-Attkisson, program director of the organization, added, “These conversations have already happened, and I don't appreciate Don Bridges putting these comments out there.”

Now that the recommendation requesting a separate monitoring program has passed, the recommendation will be forwarded to DOE for consideration.

In addition to environmental monitoring, the Citizens Advisory Board also approved a recommendation to request more information on how October's government shutdown affected SRS.

Board member Rose Hayes said she feels the additional presentation would help the CAB generate more questions and gain more information.

“A site that usually requires thousands of workers and to reduce that to a skeleton staff during the shutdown… what happens in that scenario? I think this and other questions would come to people's minds, and I think it warrants further discussion,” Hayes said.

The CAB voted on Monday because Tuesday's meeting was canceled due to impending inclement weather.

Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard. He joined the paper in June. He is originally from Vidalia, Ga., and a graduate of Georgia Southern University. Follow him on Twitter @DerrekAsberry.