The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) determined that the pile was an “imminent and substantial danger” to the people who live and work nearby. The agency monitored the air quality during the last week of July and found on four different days levels of “fine particulate matter” registered as high as 16 times the EPA safe standards.
EPA and DHEC’s primary concerns are to fully extinguish the fire and move the trash/recycling to properly lined facilities.
EPA, DHEC, SRK, Beaufort Co combined air and water quality sampling efforts reveal alarming levels of heavy metals, volatile or semi-volatile compounds (methylphenol, dimethylphenol), high levels of e. Coli and fecal coliform bacteria.
DHEC has invited SRK to serve as stakeholders in on a rulemaking committee regarding solid waste regulations in South Carolina. Going forward we hope that permitting will be more stringent, funds will be allocated for emergencies such as these in the future, and the penalty greater for negligent or intentional operations that bring harm to communities, people, and waterways. Criminal lawsuits should and are being pursued against Able Contracting and its owners. We have reason to believe that this is not an isolated incident and that there may be other sites like this one across the state and the Southeast. Dump sites pose hazards to human heath and nearby waterways that cannot be taken lightly.
SRK recommends the following mitigation actions:
- Check dams, rock dams, and other available methods should be used to slow the widening contamination from Able Contracting to other areas via the waterways. We need to slow down the water leaving the site to allow the heavy metals o settle out in the ditch and pond before reaching larger rivers such as the New and Okatie. Although this unfortunately leaves contaminants in the sediment, it will have to be remediated there. It would not, however, reach oyster beds that many locals depend on for livelihood and which are eaten by consumers.
- Use the retention pond to contain water that has already left the Able site.
- As stated before, SRK and other stakeholders will participate on the state's rulemaking committee in order to better permit, regulate, and prepare for these incidents in the future. Due to the variety of risks posed by these sorts of operations, disposal businesses in South Carolina must be allowed to operate within clearly defined rules, without negatively impacting the health of people and waterways. They should pay to be legally permitted or else face substantial fines for damaging or endangering public health and resources.
Savannah Riverkeeper (SRK) is a non-governmental organization. We are dedicated to holding polluters accountable and acting as a liaison with state and federal agencies to ensure our waterways are protected. We have run independent water samples, visited the site numerous times to document, meet with regulators, and have freely shared all of our investigation files with authorities.
The Okatie landfill fire has been an unexpected issue with emergency response required by SRK staff. The cost of processing water samples and responding to this issue mounts quickly and the fiscal year is nearly over. If you support our work, PLEASE make a donation to help with these expenses!