CONWAY — Santee Cooper and environmentalists are no longer talking about what the company might do with the 650 tons of coal ash the Coastal Conservation League says is stored outside the company’s Grainger Plant in Conway.
Mollie Gore, Santee Cooper spokeswoman, said they were meeting on the issue.
“We agreed to continue communication, to keep in touch, and they sued us,” Gore said.
Communication ceased when the lawsuit was filed.
What the League, the Winyah Rivers Foundation and the Southern Environmental Law Center want, Nancy Cave, director of the League’s Georgetown office, told the Conway City Council Monday night, is for Santee Cooper to be ordered to empty the ash from the ponds where it is and dispose of it in a lined landfill.
Cave and Christine Ellis, Riverkeeper for the Winyah Rivers Foundation, said the ash leeches arsenic into groundwater and the adjoining Waccamaw River and does irreparable damage to wildlife and the quality of life in the area. Cave said the potential for a real disaster is too high -- considering that downstream are residential communities and a federal wildlife refuge -- to allow the ash to remain in place.
Santee Cooper, she said, has decided to leave the ash ponds as they are in perpetuity and that is just not acceptable.
Gore said Santee Cooper has decided to close the ash ponds, which means no more will be added to them, and is in the process of determining if the ash will be removed from the Grainger ponds and disposed of elsewhere or left in place and sealed.
Gore further said that Cave misspoke when she told the Council that Santee Cooper has been operating without a permit since its last permit expired several years ago. What Gore said is happening is that the company’s permit was due to expire, and it filed a renewal request for the permit, under which it is operating while awaiting the finalization of a new permit.
“Nothing has been prepared,” Gore said, refuting Cave’s contention that a new, more restrictive permit was written but never issued.
Gore further said that the company’s monitoring ground and river water and has spotted just one isolated placce where a concentration of aresenic exceeds permitted levels. The company is working with the S.C.Department of Health and Environmental Control to mitigate the situation, she said.
The plant has been idle for about a year and there is a great deal of speculation that Santee Cooper will close it. Gore said no decision has been made on that as yet.
Gore said Santee Cooper has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, but no hearing date has been set yet.,
Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.