The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, or SCDHEC, is prepared to fine the U.S. Department of Energy more than $193 million if certain liquid waste and tank closure milestones aren't met at the Savannah River Site.
SCDHEC Director Catherine Templeton made the threat in a June 16 letter to DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz, saying the delays will “not be tolerated by the State of South Carolina.”
“Based on current Department of Energy completion projections, penalties through the end of FY16 alone could be assessed at more than $193 million, with ongoing daily penalties of $105,000 (stipulated) for failure to startup SWPF and $10,000 per day for failure to close the agreed upon tanks,” Templeton wrote.
She referenced Revision 19 of the SRS Liquid Waste System Plan.
SCDHEC received the Revision plan on May 29 and quickly saw that the plan projects “every single liquid waste milestone will be missed.”
Templeton made the strong accusation that the Energy Department does not view the 37 million gallons of highly radioactive and toxic waste at the Savannah River Site as a high priority.
“DHEC has worked hard in concert with SRS to ensure waste treatment and tank closure,” Templeton wrote. “The path forward for success is clear, but the Department of Energy is not continuing to make waste treatment and tank closure at SRS a priority.”
As Templeton wrote, the system plan states that several milestones will likely be missed.
These include 12 bulk waste removal milestones, 18 tank closure milestones, the Salt Waste Processing Facility startup date, two Salt Waste Processing Facility treatment rate milestones and one liquid waste treatment completion milestone.
Templeton said DHEC will not agree to milestone extensions sought because of inadequate funding for SRS because the milestones agreed to by DHEC and DOE are for the protection of the citizens and environment of South Carolina.
“DHEC calls upon DOE to take appropriate action to fund existing and additional processing capacities needed to meet its commitments,” she wrote. “DHEC will fully exercise its authority for hazardous waste oversight, along with other environmental authorities, if satisfactory commitment to the high level waste schedule is not reached.”
Both DHEC and Gov. Nikki Haley have regarded the liquid waste at SRS as the single largest environmental threat in South Carolina.
Back in August, DHEC threatened to fine the Energy Department $150 million over the same issue.
Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard. He joined the paper in June 2013.