Santee Cooper planting trees at Lake Busbee
Santee Cooper says it removed the last remaining load of coal ash Monday morning from the former Grainger Generating Station ash ponds.
The company began excavating the two ash ponds, which contained 1.8 million tons of coal ash, in 2014 after the station, which went online in 1966, was decommissioned in 2012.
“This is a major milestone in ash removal at Grainger and in South Carolina, and it is something we’ve been working diligently toward achieving,” Pamela Williams, Santee Cooper’s senior vice president and CFO, said in a news release.
The company began accelerating its excavation efforts after flooding from Hurricane Florence last September nearly breached the ponds.
One of the ponds contained about 200,000 tons of coal ash when flood levels on the Waccamaw River reached historic levels, forcing Santee Cooper to take extensive measures, including round-the-clock monitoring and bringing in inflatable barriers, to prevent a breach.
The company also said it accidentally pumped sludge from the ash pond in January into the Waccamaw River, but concluded that there was no environmental impact after testing the river water and alerting stakeholders, including the City of Conway and the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Santee Cooper still has to remove some remaining ash from dikes surrounding the ponds, according to the release, and that work is expected to conclude within a few months.
The majority of ash is being reused by the cement industry — the rest is being held in one of Santee Cooper’s landfills, according to spokeswoman Mollie Gore — and the ponds will be returned to their natural state as wetlands once all ash is removed, the release states.