February 12, 2015
CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—According to a recent report under a settlement agreement with conservation groups, South Carolina Electric & Gas removed over 600,000 tons of coal ash from its lagoons on the Catawba-Wateree River near Columbia, South Carolina, by the end of 2014.
A settlement of litigation brought by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation obligates SCE&G to remove all the coal ash from its lagoons by the end of 2020 to dry, lined storage away from the river or for appropriate recycling. The 600,000 tons represent one-quarter of the ash that was in the lagoons. Over 100,000 tons were removed during the last six months of 2014.
“SCE&G’s progress shows that utilities can clean up their unlined, leaking, dangerous riverside coal ash lagoons,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center who represented the Foundation in the litigation. “The Catawba-Wateree River and the people who depend upon it are safer today because of the removal of this ash.”
SCE&G’s progress was set out in a semi-annual report required by the settlement. Under the settlement agreement, SCE&G was obligated to remove 240,000 tons by the end of 2014. SCE&G has removed more than twice that amount. SCE&G has also completed an expansion of its on-site lined landfill three months ahead of schedule. This expansion will facilitate movement of the ash out of the riverside unlined lagoons.
“In South Carolina, the coal ash threat to the Catawba-Wateree River is being removed,” said Rick Gaskins, Executive Director of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation. “In North Carolina, Duke Energy continues to store coal ash in four unlined pits at three locations on the banks of drinking water reservoirs along the river. All of these pits are categorized by the Environmental Protection Agency as ‘high hazard’ locations. The largest two disposal sites hold a combined total of 33.9 million tons of coal ash waste and they are surrounded by at least 118 public and private wells. It’s time that Duke Energy in North Carolina shows the same respect for the River that SCE&G has shown in South Carolina.”
Prior to the cleanup, SCE&G stored approximately 2.4 million tons of coal ash on the banks of the Catawba-Wateree River, three miles upstream from the Congaree National Park. The cleanup effort will protect the Wateree River, the Congaree National Park, and groundwater which has been contaminated by arsenic. SCE&G has also pledged to clean up its coal ash storage at other sites in South Carolina.
In contrast, Duke Energy continues to store coal ash in unlined leaking lagoons on the Catawba River at Mountain Island Lake, the drinking water reservoir for over 800,000 people; at its Allen plant on Lake Wylie; and at its Marshall plant on Lake Norman. After the Southern Environmental Law Center brought legal proceedings for the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation as to the Mountain Island Lake site, Duke Energy agreed to clean up its unlined coal ash storage on Mountain Island Lake. However, Duke Energy has not agreed to clean up its unlined coal ash storage on Lake Wylie or Lake Norman. Litigation as to all three sites continues in North Carolina. The litigation concerning the SCE&G coal ash at the Wateree site was settled in August of 2012.
About the Southern Environmental Law Center
The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC’s team of more than 60 legal and policy experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use.
About the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation
The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation is a nonprofit organization with members in South and North Carolina that works to protect and restore the Catawba/Wateree River and its watershed.