Arsenic Pollution Plummets at Grainger Site as Coal Ash is Removed in South Carolina
Chapel Hill, – to the latest report on coal ash removal in South Carolina under a settlement, arsenic pollution at Santee Cooper’s Grainger plant in Conway, South Carolina, has dropped significantly as coal ash has been removed from unlined pits at the site. Santee Cooper has now removed over a half million tons of coal ash, almost half the coal ash in its pits on the Waccamaw River and arsenic groundwater contamination has dropped by 60 percent to 90 percent.
The coal ash is being removed under a settlement between conservation groups represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center – the Waccamaw Riverkeeper, the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy – and Santee Cooper. That settlement was entered into in November of 2013, following a year and a half of litigation.
“These results show that removing coal ash from unlined riverfront pits dramatically reduces pollution, as well as the risk of catastrophic failure,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Santee Cooper is moving ahead in restoring the Grainger site in the center of Conway and, at the same time, is cleaning up the region’s water resources. If Duke Energy would follow the same approach at all its sites in North Carolina, North Carolina’s rivers and communities would get the same benefits that Santee Cooper is achieving for the Waccamaw River and Conway.”
In September of 2013, before ash removal began, one monitoring well had arsenic contamination of 450 ppb, or 45 times the state standard. By April of 2016, that contamination had dropped to 4 ppb, a 99 percent decrease to below the South Carolina arsenic standard of 10 ppb. A second monitoring well in 2013 showed arsenic contamination of 1098 ppb, or almost 110 times the legal standard; by April of 2016, arsenic contamination had dropped 80 percent to 229 ppb. In 2013, another monitoring well measured 941 ppb of arsenic, 94 times the South Carolina limit. By April of 2016, the arsenic contamination has dropped by two thirds, to 330 ppb. The most contaminated groundwater dropped from 3372 ppb, or 337 times the standard, to 691 ppb, or an 80 percent decrease.
In November 2013, the conservation groups and Santee Cooper settled litigation regarding the coal ash storage at Grainger, and Santee Cooper also announced plans to remove its coal ash from all its unlined riverfront lagoons. Santee Cooper has begun removing ash from its Jeffries and Winyah sites, as well. At Winyah, Santee Cooper has partnered with SEFA of Lexington, S.C., for the construction of a new facility which converts the coal ash to a form where it can be recycled for concrete.
These results were reported by Santee Cooper to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and the conservation groups in a report dated May 26, 2016. Santee Cooper also reported that it has now removed 550,000 tons of coal ash from the site. The Grainger coal ash is also being recycled into concrete at a conventional manufacturing facility, creating jobs and reducing the environmental impacts of concrete manufacturing.
Arsenic pollution at SCE&G’s Wateree plant on the Catawba-Wateree River near Columbia has also dropped significantly following its removal of coal ash from unlined pits at the site. Under an agreement with SCE&G negotiated by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Catawba Riverkeeper, since 2012 SCE&G has been removing coal ash from its unlined lagoons on beside the river. Arsenic pollution (graph attached) at that site has dropped by 80 percent to 90 percent.