The Southern Environmental Law Center issued a July 27 statement lauding the fact that in a semi-annual report under a settlement agreement negotiated by the center, South Carolina Electric and Gas has said it has now removed over 1 million tons of coal ash from its unlined, leaking coal ash lagoon on the Catawba-Wateree River near Columbia, S.C.
The report also shows that arsenic contamination in the groundwater has dropped dramatically, the center added. In the first six months of 2016, SCE&G removed almost 213,000 tons of coal ash from the lagoon, bringing the total amount of removed ash to 1,034,000 tons. The coal ash is being excavated under the settlement agreement. The amount removed is about 45% of the 2.4 million tons of coal ash stored in the Wateree lagoon.
Arsenic contamination has dropped to its lowest recorded level in the monitoring well that had registered the highest arsenic contamination, the center said. That well prior to excavation had an arsenic level of 690 ppb. In the most recent sampling in May 2016, the well showed arsenic contamination of 54.4 ppb. Another monitoring well has dropped to 7.6 ppb, below South Carolina’s drinking water standard for arsenic of 10 ppb – a 95% drop from a pre-excavation reading of 164 ppb.
“These results show that coal ash can be safely removed from unlined pits to safe storage or recycling for concrete and that excavating ash eliminates toxic water pollution,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney for the center. “SCE&G is setting a standard for responsible handling of coal ash, and South Carolina’s water resources are cleaner as a result. But just upstream, Duke Energy in North Carolina continues to pollute the same river with unlined coal ash storage on Lake Wylie and Lake Norman.”
SCE&G and South Carolina’s other utilities are removing all their coal ash from unlined waterfront storage sites to safe, dry lined storage away from rivers and separated from groundwater, or they are recycling it into concrete. The center negotiated settlements with each of South Carolina’s utilities requiring excavation of coal ash at three different sites across the state, including SCE&G’s Wateree site. The utilities have committed themselves to the South Carolina Public Service Commission and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control to remove the coal ash from their other unlined waterfront sites.