U.S. officials explain federal funding cuts at SRS - WFXG FOX54 Augusta - Your News One Hour Earlier

U.S. officials explain federal funding cuts at SRS

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AIKEN, SC (WFXG) -

"The Savannah River Site is the single largest economic engine in this region," said David Jameson, representing the SRS Community Reuse Organization, and as the president of the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce he said South Carolina residents need to contact their congressman and push for a federal budget that won't threaten the local economy.

In a community forum, representatives with the Department of Energy explained how President Obama's 2014 fiscal budget could impact the Savannah River Site.

"Yes we have a very tight time," said Dr. David Moody, manager at the Savannah River Site. "Our communication is, ‘We'll take all the dollars you can spare, and we deliver. We will be efficient and effective.'"

But advocates for a better budget are less optimistic. They say the proposed budget would slice $100 million, specifically from operations disposing liquid waste at the site, putting hundreds of jobs on the chopping block.

"These jobs are important to our community," Jameson said. "Five hundred jobs, 600 jobs, or I guess the number that they were throwing around today; that means 40 to 50 million dollars in annual payroll will disappear from this community starting in October."

While job loss is one of the issues community members are worried about, the budget cuts are also raising concerns of environment and safety measures for residents near the site.

"If this decrease in funding continues for the out years then, as they said, we're going to spend more and more time with that waste in the tanks, we're not going to get that risk out of the tanks, increasing the risk of the citizens of South Carolina," said Karen Patterson, chairwoman of the South Carolina Governor's Nuclear Advisory Council.

Last year SRS officials said they were on track to cleaning and closing a remaining 47 tanks storing 37 million gallons of highly radioactive waste. Cutting liquid waste funding could delay those closures.

And while SRS officials say they support the president's budget county leaders are urging residents to push for something different.

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