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Par Pond, Upper 3 Runs Creek – Savannah River Site, South Carolina


SC Newsletter SCIWAY News: May 2009 Savannah River Site SRS Par Pond


Savannah River Site features thousands of acres of forest as well as two large man-made ponds and a rather important creek.

Pictured here is one of the lakes, named Par Pond. The other lake is in L Area and aptly named L Lake. Par Pond was originally named RAP Lake, an acronym representing the fact that it served R and P reactors. Because of the lake's proximity to the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, SRS reversed the order of the letters so they spell "Par." At 2,640 acres, it's a good bit larger than a mere "pond," but according to SRS, "Par Pond" sounds better than "Par Lake" from an alliterative standpoint.

Par Pond
Learn More about the Savannah River Site
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SRS is home to boars, bobcats, coyotes, white-tailed deer (South Carolina's State Animal), raccoons, opossums, wild turkeys (South Carolina's State Wild Game Bird), otters, yellow-bellied slider turtles and alligators, large-mouth bass, and even armadillos.

The University of Georgia's Savannah River Ecology Laboratory operates a facility on Upper Three Runs Creek – home to 575 recorded species of aquatic insects. The only place on earth that outdoes this 20-mile blackwater stream in terms of aquatic insect biodiversity is Breitenback Creek in Germany, which boasts 635 recorded species. Upper Three Runs Creek also provides shelter for an array of other species, including as many as 700 worms, crayfish, other large crustaceans, and mussels.

Some darkly joke that this abnormal level of biodiversity is a result of the creek's location on a nuclear weapons site. According to SRS, Upper Three Runs has served as a "control" stream since the site's inception in 1951. However, an EPA Superfund Site Narrative for SRS reports:

"A small quantity of depleted uranium was released in January 1984 into Upper Three Runs Creek. The creek ... flow[s] into the Savannah River, which is a major navigable river and forms the southern border between South Carolina and Georgia. Along the banks of the river is a 10,000-acre wetland known as the Savannah River Swamp. A March 1987 USDOE report indicates the swamp is contaminated with chromium, mercury, radium, thorium, and uranium, which overflowed from an old seepage basin."1

On the flip side, Upper Three Runs Creek may benefit from the site's relative isolation from common pollutants such as lawn fertilizer and parking lot runoff. Additionally, the USDA Forest Service, which manages the wooded areas at SRS, takes care not to harvest trees from adjacent land.

The Forest Service does harvest trees from other areas of SRS. Over the years, it has planted millions of seedlings which are systematically harvested and replanted. The Forest Service manages all of SRS's natural resources, working with numerous corporations and colleges in this pursuit. The site also serves as a National Environmental Research Park.

Both Par Pond and L Lake are fished on a regular basis. Due to the site's warmer waters, the average catch is 5 pounds, and one out of five casts will typically result in a catch. Fishing without permission is illegal of course, but some have not been deterred. One Barnwell man has been caught 27 times!

The abundance of wild game at SRS is also a sportsman's dream. SRS hosts 13 hunts a year. 2,000 hunters are chosen from a lottery of 6,000. In 2008, hunters killed 433 deer, 108 hogs, and 25 coyotes. All animals are scanned for Cesium-137, a metal found all over the world as a result of above-ground nuclear testing in the 1950s and 1960s. The work at SRS added to this global contamination and therefore continues to be scrutinized, especially when it comes to the consumption of animals raised there. An independent test in 1999 revealed nearly all of the biota in Pond B is contaminated with levels of Cesium-137 "approximately 1000 times that of global fallout from nuclear weapons testing." (Read more about this test at Chicago State University Professor Eric L. Peters Ph.D.'s website.)

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