Bathroom air freshener causes emergency response at nuclear site

Aerial view of part of the Savannah River Site in South Carolina
Aerial view of part of the Savannah River Site in South Carolina

An air freshener caused quite a scare Wednesday at the Savannah River Site.

Officials at the nuclear weapons complex declared an emergency late in the afternoon after finding what they considered a suspicious device in a bathroom at the Savannah River National Laboratory, a research area at SRS. Emergency crews were treating the item as potentially explosive.

But upon further investigation, they learned that the item was actually an air freshener wrapped in paper towels with a flashing light on it, site spokesman Jim Giusti said. The site quickly declared the item “non-threatening’’ and returned operations to normal, according to SRS.

Giusti, who is with the U.S. Department of Energy, said SRS is trying to determine why the air freshener was displayed that way.

“People reported a suspicious object and we responded based on all our training,’’ Giusti said. “It is a standard type of air freshener we use in the building. We don’t know why it was wrapped in paper towels. That’s going to be an ongoing issue for us to evaluate tomorrow when we talk to people.’’

The Savannah River Site is a heavily guarded atomic weapons complex near Aiken in western South Carolina. Located on 310-square miles, the site contains extensive amounts of nuclear material. Much of the site is now undergoing post Cold War cleanup efforts.

“The All-Clear has been given at SRS,’’ a 5:40 p.m. agency news release said. “A suspicious item was discovered at the Savannah River National Laboratory which prompted the emergency response activities. After thorough investigation, the suspicious item was determined to be non-threatening and the site has been returned to normal operations.’’