Concerns Raised Again About Coal Ash Pond on Wateree River
Coal ash pervasive: 2 billion pounds of power plant waste gets in ponds, landfills in SC.
Excerpts from Charleston Post and Courier
December 14, 2011
Arsenic and other toxic chemicals in concentrations hundreds of times higher than you would want in a cup of tap water are showing up under and near several coal ash dumps in the Lowcountry and Midlands, a review of state records reveals.
And contamination problems at some sites might be growing worse, despite millions of dollars spent by utilities to contain the pollution, records and data from a new report by a watchdog group show.
Coal-fired power plants generate massive amounts of ash as they pump out electricity. Some of this ash can be used to strengthen concrete, but most -- more than 2 billion pounds a year -- ends up in ponds or landfills next to the plants. Some of this ash contains toxic chemicals such as arsenic, lead and mercury. When the ash mixes with water, these chemicals can end up polluting waterways and groundwater.
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On Tuesday, the Environmental Integrity Project, a group that's long been critical of how utilities dump coal ash, released a report that cites contamination problems at 19 ash dumps across the country. The group's review of lab tests found several South Carolina power plants with particularly notable levels of arsenic.
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SCE&G's Wateree Station in the Midlands had arsenic at levels of 1,100 parts per billion, or 110 times higher than federal drinking water standards.
Other states had coal ash dumps with similar problems.
"This report says the problem is getting worse, and that the states are just sitting there," said Jeff Stant, director of the group's coal ash program.
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At SCE&G Wateree's Station, which is just upriver from Congaree National Park, tests in the 1990s showed arsenic levels well above federal drinking water limits. In 2001, SCE&G and DHEC agreed to create a mixing zone where arsenic wouldn't be allowed to exceed 3,000 parts per billion. In recent years, arsenic levels in a well ranged from 1,743 parts per billion to more than 4,000 parts per billion, or 400 times the drinking water limit. After SCE&G officials learned about the 4,000 reading, they asked their consultant to take another sample. This time, the sample had an arsenic concentration of 242 parts per billion, 24 times higher than the drinking water limit but below the 3,000 parts per billion limit in the company's mixing zone deal.
The Environmental Integrity Project said Wateree's recent readings remain troubling. It cited one test in 2006 that found arsenic levels exceeding 5,000 parts per billion. The group said arsenic was found in five of six wells in recent years, and that tests showed high levels of lead, chromium and cadmium.
For the complete article in the Post and Courier, go to:
To read an article about the lawsuit filed by Catawba Riverkeeper against SCE&G to compel the cleanup of the ash ponds, click here.