COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The director of South Carolina's environmental control agency has warned the U.S. Energy Department that federal budget reductions to the Savannah River Site near Aiken could result in hundreds of millions of dollars in fines.
In a letter obtained Thursday by The Associated Press, Director Catherine Templeton told Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz the state will fully enforce the agencies' agreements on more than 30 milestones for cleaning up high-level radioactive liquid waste stored in degrading, underground tanks.
That includes fines that will top $154 million if a waste processing facility doesn't open in October 2015. The state Department of Health and Environmental Control will not waive daily fines of $105,000 that have accrued since 2011, when the agency granted an extension. Those fines will continue until opening day. Another extension won't be given, Templeton said.
"Let me be abundantly clear. South Carolinians place an extraordinary amount of trust in our agency to be the state's eyes and ears at SRS to ensure DOE keeps its promises," reads the letter dated Wednesday. "We will not compromise the future of our state by moving the goalposts. We intend to fully enforce all milestones."
The Energy Department's proposed budget for 2014 makes it virtually impossible for SRS to meet its goals, she said.
She said the agency's request to Congress shorts SRS in favor of underperforming sites in other areas of the country that have not met benchmarks, a move she considers short-sighted.
"It simply makes more sense to invest in the site now than put off the work and pay penalties in the future," she said.
The federal agency did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Templeton calls the waste stored in the site's aging tanks the single largest environmental threat in South Carolina.
During the Cold War, the 310-square-mile complex that encompasses parts of Aiken, Barnwell and Allendale counties produced plutonium and tritium for atomic bombs. After years of clean-up efforts at the site, 37 million gallons of waste remain in 49 underground tanks.
Woman Discovers New Wrinkle Trick that has Doctors Angry.