Feds OK plan to leave slick of polluted coal tar in SC river

Published: Oct. 22, 2017 at 7:42 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 23, 2017 at 10:02 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS/AP) - Federal authorities have approved a plan to allow S.C. Electric and Gas to leave a slick of polluted coal tar in the Congaree River rather than cleaning it up.

The Sun News of Myrtle Beach reports the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved a permit Wednesday allowing the power company to cover the toxin-tainted coal tar with stones or other material to hold it in place.

The company backed away from a plan to dig up the coal tar and haul it away because of expense.

Congaree Riverkeeper Bill Stangler says his group is considering legal challenges to the Corps' decision. State regulators say the coal tar hasn't hurt water quality, although testing has been limited. Stangler's full statement released on Friday reads:

"This will not protect the Congaree River or the people who use it, and it is a far cry from SCE&G's promise to do right by the river. We believe SCE&G can do better, and should do better. No one from SCE&G has ever explained to us why they have backed away from their assurances of a full cleanup."

The Corps approved the plan Wednesday and made it public Friday.

SCE&G also released a statement on Monday, saying:

We've worked for about six years to find the best solution to address the material in the Congaree River. [The] Cost has never been a deciding factor, despite what other reports may have suggested.

Even though SCDHEC has determined that the water in this area of the Congaree River is safe for recreational use and that the tar material does not pose a short-term health hazard, our strong preference has always been to remove the material from the river. Unfortunately, there simply is no strategy for removal that is viable from an engineering standpoint and for which we can obtain the necessary permits.

Therefore, SCDHEC has requested that we move forward with an engineered capping system, such as a concrete articulated mat, to create a robust barrier that will prevent the potential migration of the material into any other area of the river. Over time, such a mat will continue to be covered naturally by additional sediment.

We are currently working through the design and permitting process for the capping solution, and we'll continue to share those details as the project moves forward.

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