S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control: Groundwater near Catawba Nuclear Station is not dangerous

(The following information is from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.)

COLUMBIA, SC - Follow-up testing of additional water samples outside the Catawba Nuclear Station in York County found no significant levels of radioactive material, resulting from plant operations, in the groundwater beyond the site property, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reported today.

"Earlier tests had already indicated no significant Tritium levels in the groundwater coming from the plant," said Chris Staton, director of DHEC's Division of Waste Assessment and Emergency Response. "This round of tests took a broader look at the wells DHEC tested in October 2007. These samples were analyzed for a wider spectrum of radioactive materials, rather than focusing on Tritium."

Staton said the additional tests help determine whether any other radioactive materials, man-made or naturally occurring, might be present in the local groundwater.

The testing of off-site public and private well water was part of DHEC's initiative to mirror a new nuclear industry effort to determine groundwater quality on-site at nuclear power plants throughout the country. DHEC staff sampled public and private wells surrounding all four of South Carolina's commercial nuclear power plants.

DHEC staff tested 24 locations surrounding the Catawba Nuclear Station in April 2008 and testing confirmed varying levels of naturally occurring radioactive materials in all 24 samples. The majority of the materials detected resulted from concentrations of Uranium and Radium found naturally in the ground.

Twenty of the samples were from private wells, one sample was from a public well and three samples were surface water samples taken from Lake Wylie. The samples were tested for Gross Alpha and Gross Beta, and general bacterial water quality.

Community public wells are tested for Alpha and Beta radioactivity by using tests called "Gross Alpha Activity," "Gross Beta Activity" and if needed "Gross Gamma Activity." These tests look at the total effects that these materials can have on human health over time.

If these test results are above public drinking water standards, the water system is notified and a plan is developed to reduce levels. These same tests can also be applied to private wells.

"The test samples, analyzed for radioactive materials, were analyzed by DHEC's laboratory in Columbia," Staton said.

Staton said residents whose wells showed elevated levels of naturally occurring radioactive materials were given information on how to reduce the intake of those materials. Due to the elevated levels of naturally occurring radioactive materials, 15 of the 21 wells were also screened for Gross Gamma radiation. No Gamma radiation was detected in any of those wells.

Duke Energy officials are continuing their effort to characterize the groundwater on the Catawba property. DHEC staff will monitor and review any additional test results.

For more information about this well sampling project, call 1-800-476-9677, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.