I-TEAM: SRS responds to News 12 investigation on high radon levels in Aiken County

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Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020
News 12 at 6 O’Clock/NBC at 7

(Source: WRDW)

AIKEN COUNTY, SC (WRDW/WAGT) -- The Savannah River Site is telling their side of the story after a recent News 12 investigation.

Our I-Team found alarming high levels of radon in one part of Aiken County: zip code 29803. Radon comes from the breakdown of uranium. It also causes lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death in Aiken County.

We sat down with Tim Jannik, SRS’ expert on environmental radiation, who told us more about the breakdown of uranium.

“It’s not the uranium that is the source of radon that has been used at the site and currently being used is a purified form,” Jannik said. “It’s not going through any decay.”

Jannik says it's impossible for the uranium at the SRS to release radon because the plant has only been around 70 years.

"It takes thousands and thousands of years before radon to build up so the uranium that we have processed at the site is not the cause of radon off-site,” Jannik said.

Radon naturally occurs in the environment. We found levels as high as a 74 in zip code 29803. Anything over a four is potentially dangerous. According to South Carolina of Department of Health and Environmental Control, 1 in 10 homes in the zip code tested positive for elevated levels of radon.

"Uranium was created when the earth was created, and now it’s come over -- millions of years have gotten into the rocks and soil that people live on,” Jannik said.

"When it comes out of the soil, if there is a house there or building there, it can get into that building and it can concentrate in that building because it’s not ventilated properly."

Which is why DHEC urges home owners to test for radon.

"Radon is also heavier than air, so it will concentrate on the lower parts of the building like basements and so forth, so that's really where you need to test for radon,” Jannik said.

SRS monitors air water and wildlife on and off-site. They say they have found no elevated levels of radiation.

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