SC State Research Valuable to SRS Cleanup Research team awarded $225,000 to continue efforts

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

ORANGEBURG, S.C. - Cleaning up environmental impacts from the Cold War legacy is a main focus of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) operations at Savannah River Site (SRS), located in Aiken, S.C., and when nature helps with the cleanup, tax dollars are saved.

smallcongratsA SC State University research team headed by Dr. John B. Williams, professor in the Department of Biological and Physical Sciences, is playing a vital role in determining nature's effectiveness in this cleanup called "natural attenuation."

DOE and Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS) announced the new award of $225,000 to continue this work and described SC State monitoring data as "very valuable" for SRS efforts to document regulatory compliance to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

EPA has endorsed the sampling quality by Williams and views the SC State team as an 'objective third party' in monitoring environmental progress at SRS. SC State's research monitors the natural removal of volatile organic compounds (VOC) along the plume fringe from a waste site linked to the EPA-designated Super-Fund Program.

An additional benefit of this DOE-SC State collaborative effort is the hands-on training received by student interns.

"I am equally pleased that our SC State efforts are assisting DOE and EPA cleanup objectives for SRS and that this process advances the professional training of our students. DOE guided this SC State effort to achieve both environmental monitoring results and training of more minority environmental professionals," said Williams.

SC State interns have been successful in these efforts, and Williams reports that, after the past three summers, five interns have been hired by the same Greenville, South Carolina environmental engineering firm. Other interns have advanced to positions with federal agencies including the National Nuclear Security Administration.

Current interns continue to move this effort forward and benefit from real-world applications of their classroom training.

Joshua Maxie, a junior nuclear engineering major from Summerville, South Carolina, shared, "This work is giving me experience in my desired career field and helps to monitor natural attenuation."

Zachariah Benjamin, a junior industrial engineering major from Alcolu, South Carolina, expressed similar thoughts and clearly appreciated the career-advancement benefits.

Yazmine Thomas, from Bamberg, South Carolina, completed her Bachelor of Science in biological sciences at SC State this spring and sees her work as advancing preparation for the graduate degree she will pursue at Delaware State University.

Other SC State interns working in this environmental monitoring effort include: Tevin Clack, a senior biology major from Los Angeles, California; Tobias Copeland, a junior computer science major from Hartsville, South Carolina; and Christopher Gentry, a junior civil engineering major from Spartanburg, South Carolina.