According to the first Santee Cooper coal ash removal report released this week, Santee Cooper has removed over 42,000 tons from its unlined coal ash lagoons on the banks of the Waccamaw River in Conway, South Carolina.
The removal is part of a settlement reached between Santee Cooper and citizen groups represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center – the Waccamaw Riverkeeper, the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
“Santee Cooper is carrying out its obligations and removing coal ash from Conway and the banks of the Waccamaw River in South Carolina,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center who represented the groups in the litigation. “The end result will be restored wetlands and a safer, cleaner Conway and Waccamaw. Duke Energy should follow Santee Cooper’s example by cleaning up all of its coal ash in North and South Carolina —moving the coal ash to safer, dry, lined storage away from rivers and waterways.”
In June alone, 20,000 tons of coal ash were removed from the Grainger ash pits. The pace of the coal ash removal has accelerated since it began in March 2014. At June’s rate, Santee Cooper would empty the lagoons in just over six years, well ahead of the 10 year time limit set in the settlement agreement.
“Santee Cooper’s progress in cleaning up their coal ash waste is laudable proof that where there is a will there is a way,” stated Ulla Reeves of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “Sadly, neighboring Duke Energy in NC continues to fight against measures to properly clean up their ash messes. As we face the 6 month milestone after Duke’s Dan River disaster, we are eager to see other utilities follow Santee Cooper’s lead cleaning up old impoundments to prevent spills and pollution that threaten the waterways we all depend on.”
The removal of the ash is required under a settlement agreement voluntarily reached between Santee Cooper and the conservation groups. The agreement resolved a year of litigation brought by the Southern Environmental Law Center to require removal of the ash. Santee Cooper has also committed to remove the coal ash from all the unlined coal ash lagoons in its system, including those at the Jeffries Plant in Berkeley County and the Winyah Plant in Georgetown County.
“We are glad that Santee Cooper is working to remove the coal ash from the banks of the Waccamaw,” said Paula Reidhaar, the Waccamaw Riverkeeper. “We hope that this can be an example of what the options are for coal ash management. It is also encouraging that material is being removed so quickly and we will continue to monitor the progress and update our members and interested parties.”
Coal ash is being used in the manufacture of concrete, and a new manufacturing facility is opening in Georgetown County to recycle the ash.
“Santee Cooper’s removal of the coal ash from Grainger demonstrates that the utility can and will do what is best for the community and the environment,” said Nancy Cave, North Coast director at the S.C. Coastal Conservation League. “This example of responsible corporate action to a dangerous situation should be replicated by other utilities.”
Press Release, July 31, 2014