In 1969, routine sampling at Melton Hill Dam, which is downstream from the ANC property, found Cobalt-60, which was eventually traced back to radioactive waste on the property, the application said.
The company eventually shut down and around 1972 the property was abandoned. The State took it over and initial clean up was done to protect the public but the remediation was not completed, the application said. The state continued to monitor the site but the property continued to be a source of concern for the county.
“Hazardous conditions at the ANC site have been reduced over time, but the site remains a security concern, an eyesore, and is unsuitable for productive reuse,” the 2010 application said, mentioning cases where cars have crashed into the gate to the site, teenagers getting too curious and the fact that the property neighbors more than 200 acres of county-owned land.
About 13 years later, county officials still echo concerns about the site and the desire to see it cleaned up. The county’s intergovernmental committee took up the issue once again in the last couple of years, according to meeting minutes and agendas. This time around, the response was different.
“A big reason why we’re seeing some push on this [is] one, we understand the county has some interest in the property,” said Steve Sanders, director of TDEC’s division of remediation on October 9. “Two, Governor (Bill) Lee put forth a conservation initiative that was funded by the legislature a couple of years ago to address a number of brownfield properties across the state that had really just been sort of sitting, languishing without funding, without a path forward. American Nuclear is one of those properties.”
TDEC looked at the site and referred it to EPA’s region four superfund program on July 15, 2022, an EPA spokesperson said. The two agencies began evaluating the site including collecting samples. Concerns currently at the site include “radiological contamination of structural materials and soil, sediment, surface water and groundwater contamination,” the EPA spokesperson said.
“It’s a site that the state likely doesn’t have the resources, expertise, capacity to handle and so each of the [EPA] regions across the country has funding for that. And so that’s how this is being funded,” Sanders said.
The on-site cleanup could begin as early as this December, the EPA spokesperson said.
“So they are in the process of finalizing an access agreement with the state for their contractors. They are going through the bid process to select the contractor that will be doing the work,” Sanders said. “That contractor will have to basically determine where that waste is going to go when it leaves the site. It is very likely at this point that it’s going to leave the state and go to one of the radioactive landfills in the West.”
Sanders said the cleanup is designated as an emergency action removal which by law means the work has to start within six months and is estimated to be finished within 18 months of starting. At this time, it is uncertain whether the land will go back to the county after the cleanup is completed but Sanders said he understands that the site will be cleaned up to “an unlimited reuse status.”
“I thank TDEC for your leadership and environmental stewardship of the property,” Commissioner Tracy Wandell, representative of Claxton, said. “TDEC has done their job, they have monitored … and it’s encouraging to see the federal government get involved and help out with this clean up and I’m happy to hear that obviously that doesn’t take away from the state dollars which are needed [for] other things.”