SC's only National Park closely monitoring nearby nuclear spill

SC's only National Park closely monitoring nearby nuclear spill

HOPKINS, SC (WIS) - Scott Teodorski loves almost everything about the National Park he supervises, Congaree National Park.

"We do have certain times of the year that the mosquitoes can be quite challenging," he said with a smile while hiking a mosquito-thick portion of the park's Bluff Trail.

But they're a small price to pay for beauty so raw and primordial in a park always changing because of the river that gives the park its name.

"While water's a lifeblood of most parks, it's really critical here," Teodorski said of the Congaree River.

The river can flood the park, bring it new life, and it can also bring pollution. The latter is the reason why Teodorski is paying close attention to what's happening right outside the park.

"No National Park is an island," he said.

Just a few miles down the road, the Westinghouse Nuclear Fuel Fabrication Facility is dealing with a problem. Last month, workers discovered a leak of Hydrofluoric Acid and Uranium. While Westinghouse and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control don't believe the risk created by the spill is great, it's still not known how much of it seeped into the ground or if any has leaked into groundwater.

"The Westinghouse facility sits right next to Mill Creek, which is a blackwater creek very similar to this one right next to me. That feeds into the Congaree River and eventually goes toward Congaree National Park, so what happens there has the potential to impact everything downstream," said Congaree Riverkeeper Bill Stangler.

For that reason, along with the park, the Riverkeeper will be monitoring soil and water quality in search of anything unusual.

"When you introduce something like Uranium or acids like that it can have a catastrophic effect on the water bodies and the ecosystem as a whole," he said.

For now, like so many other questions, yet another can't be answered yet: will the park feel an impact?

Westinghouse's plant manager has said there's no factual proof that contamination has ever left the site and DHEC doesn't believe any drinking water will be impacted.

However, as evidenced by a public meeting on Monday night, skepticism from the public is high.

Copyright 2018 WIS. All rights reserved.