Local residents speak to county council, plan meeting to fight proposed dump

By Ben Robinson
Staff Reporter

COUNTY — Local businesswoman Pree Hamilton spoke to Pickens County Council Monday night about stopping a North Carolina-based company’s efforts to create a coal ash dump near Liberty.

Hamilton, who owns Farm Equipment and Supplies in Pickens and lives near the site of the proposed dump, will lead a group opposed to the dump in a 6 p.m. meeting next Thursday, Feb. 11, at the Liberty Civic Auditorium, at 314 W. Main St.

MRR Pickens LLC was granted a permit in 2007 and 2015 to create a construction and debris landfill. The approval of the permit was granted after MRR Pickens LLC officials appeared for a public hearing on an application for a renewal of their Feb. 12, 2007, land use permit for a proposed landfill off S.C. Highway 93 near Liberty, according to the Pickens County Planning Commission. The company recently filed an application for a variance with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control that included plans for the installation of a liner to use with a coal ash dump.

The planning commission voted last month to suspend the company’s land-use permit, but the measure has not put a stop to the company’s efforts to bring the dump to Pickens County.

In speaking to county council members Monday night, Hamilton repeated part of the Pledge of Allegiance, which was led by Boy Scout Troop 51 to open the meeting.

“To the Republic for which it stands, and we stand in Pickens County for no coal ash,” Hamilton said. “We need council to stand behind us.”

Hamilton said there’s an online effort to fight the proposed dump and petitions she can put up in her business.

“I don’t know if anybody’s tried to get in touch with a mayor elected official,” she said. “Everybody in Liberty is totally behind us.

“This is a potential danger not just for our county, but also Oconee and Greenville. This has got to be taken care of.”

Hamilton also brought along a sign she said had been on display along Highway 93 in favor of the dump.

2-03 Page 1A copy.indd“These signs — and we don’t know where they came from — were on Highway 93,” she told council members. “They were not on anybody’s property, but now they’re gone. They have been removed. Don’t know where they are.”

She said the signs show local residents who they are dealing with.

“This is a multi-million dollar company,” Hamilton said “They can play dirty. They don’t have to stick to our rules, and evidently they’re not wanting to.”

“We can’t — the little group of us — financially afford to fight this.”

County council members last month voted unanimously to urge the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control to deny the company’s variance and disallow the coal ash dump.

Members of the Pickens County Legislative Delegation also penned a letter to DHEC railing against the proposed dump, and other groups, such as Manufacturers Caring for Pickens County and Upstate Forever, have also expressed their opposition.

The county has hired attorney Gary Poliakoff to aid in its fight. Council chair Jennifer Willis said one of the reasons Poliakoff was hired was because he has been successful in similar actions elsewhere.

“So we’re not playing,” Willis said.

Hamilton said she is determined to spread the word about the company’s plans.

“Every city needs to invest their time and money on getting (information) out to the public, because the public has a right to know,” she said, adding she has checked on bulk mail as a way to let the public know what is going on, but found that a $250 permit is needed for bulk mail.

“Who’s going to pay for it?” she asked.

Hamilton said she has also uncovered information about direct mail to get the message out.

“It’s an 8-by-10 flyer that can be handed out,” Hamilton said. “It’s pennies on a dollar.”

Hamilton promised her group is devoted to fighting the company’s proposed dumping.

“We’re not playing games,” she said. “We’re standing up. There’s a handful of people who have stirred this up and got attention to it, but more people need to be involved. It’s just got to happen.”

Liberty resident Lewis Lollis also spoke to council to promote next week’s meeting.

“I’ve been throughout the county, and most of the people that I’ve talked to said, ‘Well, I’ve heard something about that,’ and that makes me angry that they’ve not heard a lot about it, because it need to be out there. It needs to be publicized,” he said.

“I don’t know how many are going to show up, but I know I’ll be there,” Lollis said of next week’s meeting. “And I hope you will, too.”