Air freshener triggers emergency response at S. Carolina nuclear research lab

H Area at the Savannah River Site near Aiken, South Carolina. © U.S. Department of Energy
Officials at a nuclear research lab near Aiken, South Carolina, declared an emergency response after a suspicious device was found in the bathroom.

Emergency crews were treating the item as potentially explosive.

“A security event is in progress that has triggered emergency response activities at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL). More information will be provided as it becomes available,” read the Facebook post on Wednesday.

On investigation the item turned out to be an air freshener wrapped in paper towels with a flashlight on it, according to site spokesman Jim Giusti.

“People reported a suspicious object and we responded based on all our training,’’ Giusti told The State. “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 evaluatetomorrow when we talk to people.’’

The site quickly declared the item “non-threatening.’’

The Savannah River Site employs nearly 1,000 people and is a heavily guarded atomic weapons complex in South Carolina.The site contains extensive nuclear material. It is highly skilled in reprocessing nuclear waste and much of the site is undergoing post-Cold War cleanup efforts. 

On the company’s Facebook page, an employee posted “it’s over now.”

“It was nothing nuclear,” Barbara Paulos posted. “Nothing affecting the water and nothing affecting the public. It was a security event meaning that it affected the security of the facility and/or people working in/near that facility. It's over now. I believe it was a suspicious package. No worries.”