Enviro group says Santee Cooper running ahead of schedule on coal ash removal

In a report provided to conservation groups under a settlement agreement with Santee Cooper, the utility reported that during 2014 it removed 164,000 tons of coal ash from its unlined lagoons at its Grainger facility on the Waccamaw River in Conway, South Carolina.

At its rate of coal ash removal during the last six months of 2014, Santee Cooper (also known as the South Carolina Public Service Authority) will finish removing the ash from the lagoons in 2019, four years ahead of schedule, said the Southern Environmental Law Center in a Jan. 26 statement.

The center brought actions against Santee Cooper seeking removal of the coal ash on behalf of the Waccamaw Riverkeeper, the S.C. Coastal Conservation League, and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. That litigation was resolved in November 2013 through a binding settlement that requires removal of the coal ash from the Grainger lagoons by the end of 2023. Santee Cooper has submitted a closure plan to DHEC containing the requirements of the settlement agreement and which will return the Grainger lagoons to restored wetlands along the Waccamaw River.

“Santee Cooper’s progress shows that coal ash can be removed from dangerous unlined, riverside lagoons and properly recycled or stored dry in lined landfills away from waterways,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the center, who represented the conservation groups in the litigation. “Other utilities, including Duke Energy in South and North Carolina, should follow Santee Cooper’s lead.” 

“At the time Santee Cooper agreed to clean up its Grainger coal ash, the utility said they would also remove coal ash from other of its unlined waterfront coal ash lagoons in South Carolina. We look to Santee Cooper, our state owned utility, to  protect our valuable coastal rivers from the pollution that comes from unlined coal ash storage,” said Nancy Cave, North Coast Office Director of the Coastal Conservation League.

The Waccamaw River is part of the Winyah Bay Watershed, which flows through both North and South Carolina. In addition to Santee Cooper’s coal ash lagoons, Duke Energy stores coal ash in an unlined lagoon on the Lumber River in the North Carolina portion of the watershed, the center noted.

“Santee Cooper’s work shows the kind of leadership we need from utilities to protect communities and rivers. Duke Energy should take responsibility in similar fashion to protect North Carolina’s rivers by removing its coal ash from unlined pits to safe storage or proper recycling,” said Ulla Reeves of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

The center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast U.S. (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama).

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.