Legislators, manufacturers oppose local coal ash dump

By Greg Oliver
Courtesy The Journal

COUNTY — Members of the Pickens County Legislative Delegation are concerned about the disposal of coal ash in Pickens County and recently mailed a letter to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control expressing their opposition.

In addition, the chairman of a group of local manufacturers has expressed the group’s opposition to the project.

The delegation’s letter, addressed to DHEC director Catherine Heigel, states that the lawmakers learned of an application for a variance made in connection with an existing permit for a construction and debris landfill near Liberty. If approved, the variance would allow the permit holder to dispose of coal ash in the landfill.

“We wish to go on record in opposition to the variance request and respectfully urge the department to deny the permit,” read the letter signed by state reps. Gary Clary of Clemson, Davey Hiott of Pickens and Neal Collins of Easley and state Sen. Larry Martin of Pickens.

The letter continued by stating that Pickens County Council entered into an agreement with an out-of-state company to create a construction and debris landfill at the site in 2007. The landfill was reaching capacity at the time, and the site provided a long-term solution to what delegation members said was “to meet the county’s needs.”

But the delegation added that county council “never contemplated that this company would attempt to convert the landfill for the disposal of coal ash, as this toxic waste material is not produced in the county and is not a typical C and D material.”

“In short, the conversion of the existing permit for this landfill will deprive the county and its citizens of its intended use,” the delegation letter concluded. “It will bring into Pickens County a waste that is not generated here and has broad environmental concerns for all of our citizens.”

The delegation added the site is “much too close” to the city of Liberty and the Pickens County Industrial Park and “we oppose Pickens County becoming a dumping ground for this out-of-state company.”

Martin said the delegation learned of the news “right before Christmas.”

“The introduction of coal ash into a construction and debris landfill goes well beyond its intended use, and the company’s plan will significantly diminish any benefit the C and D landfill would provide for the citizens of Pickens County,” Martin said.

Manufacturers Caring for Pickens County chairman Tom O’Hanlan, the CEO of Sealevel Systems Inc. in Liberty, also penned a letter condemning the project.

“MCPC is opposed to this landfill proposal due to the lack of any published study on the environmental impact, the economic impact or the suitability of the current site to contain the toxins,” he wrote. “The transport method of coal ash to the site (and) the remoteness of this site to the power generation plants responsible are also concerns and unknown at this time.

“Additionally, several MCPC companies are within close proximity and are deeply concerned about the landfill coming to Liberty. This will have a direct impact on our facilities, as well as other businesses and residences in the area. It is inconceivable that such a project would be approved without considering the impact on the health and well being of those most directly affected, not to mention the potential business and financial damage to companies located in the Commerce Park and other nearby areas.”