Campus News Georgia Impact

SREL to launch new outreach program in Burke County

UGA’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory will begin working this summer with the community of Shell Bluff in Burke County to help its residents understand the impacts of nuclear industrial operations in the surrounding area.

The Shell Bluff community, near Waynesboro, is in close proximity to both the U.S. Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site in Aiken, South Carolina, and Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle.

The three-year program, a collaboration with Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions, an ­Atlanta-based nonprofit, will engage and address residents’ concerns about the real and perceived risk of environmental contamination from nuclear industrial operations in the surrounding area.

The Savannah River Ecology Laboratory will be responsible for program development and implementation, including a pre- and post-survey of community leaders and residents; monitoring for the presence of ­radionuclides, metals and other contaminants; providing data results; and educating and informing the community through extensive outreach activities.

The program will have a strong educational component, according to Olin E. Rhodes Jr., director of the SREL.

“This outreach program will be data-driven and heavily focused on informing residents of our findings,” he said. “We will be present and actively involved in the Shell Bluff community—listening, sharing what we find and communicating the scientific findings in a manner that can be understood.”

The residents will have an active role in the structure of the program, from providing input on monitoring locations to identifying specific sources of concern to be included—soil, water, air and food. The program is supported by a cooperative agreement between the Department of Energy and SREL.