Sediment and Surface Soil Monitoring

Shovel placed on sand for construction

Sediment Monitoring

ESOP collects sediment and soil samples on a yearly basis. Both can trap chemicals and be a route for human exposure. Samples of each are analyzed for radionuclides and metals.

Annual sediment samples from on-site SRS streams and storm-water basins, creek mouths and boat landings on the Savannah River, and background locations are collected to determine if radiological and non-radiological contaminants have affected water bodies that could result in human exposure. ESOP and DOE split samples of sediment at many locations to provide for a more direct comparison of data (Sediment Monitoring locations).

If sediment in a riverbed is disturbed by natural or man-made reasons, it has the potential to release any contaminants that it has entrapped, which could result in ingestion through swimming or eating animals from the water body. Sediment samples are analyzed for specific radioisotopes such as gross alpha-, gross beta-, or gamma-emitting radionuclides as well as select metals. In particular, Cesium-137 is of concern in both sediment and soil as it has the ability to be introduced to the food chain where it stores in muscle tissue once entering an animal’s body.

Surface Soil Monitoring

When surface soil is contaminated by radionuclides or metals, the contamination can be transported to other ecological systems by being absorbed by plants and being introduced to the food chain. It can leach into groundwater and possibly emerge in surface water. Contamination can also runoff into streams and introduce chemicals into the sediment.

Radionuclide detections in soil are the result of accumulation over many years and do not represent yearly depositions. ESOP collects soil from multiple locations adjacent to SRS to determine if site activities might have had an impact on areas outside of the site boundary (Surface Soil Monitoring locations). Samples are analyzed for gross alpha-, gross non-volatile beta-, and select gamma-emitting radionuclides, as well as specific metals of concern.