The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, or SCDHEC, has denied the Department of Energy’s request to extend waste tank closure dates at the Savannah River Site and reaffirmed its threat to fine the Energy Department more than $100 million if dates aren’t met.
In an Aug. 29 letter, SCDHEC Manager Susan Fulmer wrote that the organization has completed its review of the DOE’s request, which includes a 15-month extension for the operational closure of Tanks 12 and 16. The request would have extended the closure date from Sept. 30, 2015, to Dec. 31, 2016.
Fulmer wrote that DOE cited technical problems and funding issues as reasons for requesting an extension.
“Technological challenges over the past five years have been communicated to the regulators but have not previously been noted as a cause for significant delay to the tank closure milestones,” Fulmer wrote in a letter to DOE official Brian Hennessy. “The Department does not consider the technical challenges described in your letter to constitute good cause for extension.”
In terms of funding, Fulmer added that SCDHEC “has not been provided information that supports a claim that DOE made timely efforts to obtain sufficient funding for Tanks 12H and 16H for Fiscal Year 2014.”
SCDHEC did agree to a schedule adjustment of 27 days for the time loss during last year’s government furlough and for the one-week process used to return the facilities to operating mode.
Earlier this year, SCDHEC Director Catherine Templeton threatened to fine DOE $193 million in a letter to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.
“Based on current Department of Energy completion projections, penalties through the end of FY16 alone could be assessed at more than $193 million, with ongoing daily penalties of $105,000 (stipulated) for failure to startup SWPF and $10,000 per day for failure to close the agreed upon tanks,” Templeton wrote in a letter dated June 16.
SCDHEC, as well as Gov. Nikki Haley, have both have regarded the liquid waste at SRS as the single largest environmental threat in South Carolina.
Both parities are vying for full funding at the top of the fiscal year to continue liquid waste treatment and tank closures at the Site.
Derrek Asberry is the SRS beat reporter for the Aiken Standard.