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SRS updates: Coal cleanup, United Way campaign and latest COVID numbers

Savannah River Nuclear Solutions Project Manager Kelsey Holcomb discusses the cleanup of the...
Savannah River Nuclear Solutions Project Manager Kelsey Holcomb discusses the cleanup of the D-Area Coal Storage Yard with Department of Energy-Savannah River Federal Project Director Karen Adams at the project site.(WRDW)
Published: Nov. 30, 2020 at 1:23 PM EST
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AIKEN, S.C., (WRDW/WAGT) - With the use of limestone gravel, the stage has been set for closure of an old 12-acre coal yard at the Savannah River Site.

Until 2012, the storage yard held piles of coal for a powerhouse built in the 1950s that provided steam and electricity for missions at SRS, a U.S. Department of Energy complex that deals with nuclear materials for the national defense.

The coal facility was shut down and replaced with a technology that burns forest debris, agricultural waste and scrap lumber to generate steam and power.

Savannah River Nuclear Solutions restored the land impacted by the old coal powerhouse.

“Any large pile of coal that sits for nearly six decades will interact with rainwater and the atmosphere,” said Kelsey Holcomb, project manager with the SRNS Environmental Compliance and Area Completion Projects organization. “Coal contains iron sulfide, also known as pyrite or fool’s gold, and when it mixes with rainwater, it creates sulfuric acid. The acidity could potentially leach into the soil and draw out toxic metals such as beryllium and chromium if left untreated.”

Cleanup of the coal storage yard prevents those metals from migrating into the groundwater and surface waters.

Before the coal-tainted soil had been removed from the yard, it had the approximate pH of a cola-based soft drink, at 3.0 to 3.2. After crews thoroughly mixed 1,000 tons of fine-grade limestone throughout the 12 acres, down to a depth of four feet, the pH returned to around 5.5, a normal level for the region.

SRNS is the operations and management contractor at SRS, which spans 310 square miles in Aiken, Allendale and Barnwell counties and employs more than 11,000 people.

United Way effort exceeds goal

Savannah River Nuclear Solutions employees gave back to surrounding communities through a United Way campaign that raised more than $1.1 million, including the employee campaign and corporate match.

The contributions exceeded the $1 million goal.

This year’s theme was “Impacting Lives Now More Than Ever.”

Sharon Rodgers, president of the United Way of Aiken County, and Brittany Burnett, president and CEO of the United Way of the CSRA, expressed appreciation.

Coronavirus stats shared

As of Monday morning, 82 Savannah River Site employees were quarantined with COVID-19, according to a periodic update from spokeswoman Amy R. Boyette.

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