A 45-60 foot mountain of illegal trash and debris at “recovered material processing facility” Able Contracting in Jasper County, SC continues to smolder, sending noxious smoke into the air and toxic runoff into the waterways nearby.
From the Island Packet:
The towering mound of miscellaneous debris [...] has been on fire since early June. For more than two months, the fire has released noxious fumes and an acrid odor. Since then, residents near the pile have fled their homes; businesses have been forced to close early or, in one instance, leave the area; and there are growing concerns about what this months-long fire means for the health of residents and the environment.
Neighbors were forced to evacuate and schools took precautions like limiting outdoor recess for the children’s safety. At least 25 people have been displaced by the fire. Air quality monitors near the site are continually detecting levels to provide warnings if the pollution becomes unsafe. EPA said the smoke is a major health concern and has also identified at least one toxin, acrolein, at the site. The agency is on the scene until the fire is extinguished, at which time SC DHEC will take over. Federal Superfund money is being used to extinguish the fire, and DHEC has exhausted its emergency fund budget on this issue alone.
Criminal charges and multiple lawsuits have been filed against the owner in this case of negligence and environmental malfeasance. DHEC has conducted multiple inspections and issued notices to the facility over the past two years including a cease and desist notice on July 3. The pile has been a fire hazard for years now; the suits allege that Chandler knowingly created a dangerous environment and caused damage and loss to businesses and individuals’ health, property, and operation.
Savannah Riverkeeper has concerns about the regulations in place for disposal of this kind of waste. How will it be cleaned up? And how can we prevent it from happening again? We will keep our members and followers up to date as this issue develops.
What does this mean for the waterways?
When Savannah Riverkeeper investigated the dumpsite, dark-colored, foul-smelling water was seen flowing from the dumpsite into a ditch that leads to the Okatie River. The runoff contains high levels of arsenic, magnesium and semi-volatile organic compounds according to Beaufort County and the EPA.
Savannah Riverkeeper conducted independent testing of water samples from the Okatie River downstream from the fire. Results are pending.
For More Info
To follow active updates from the agencies, including air monitoring results, visit the websites below:
EPA Superfund Site Info
EPA Storymap on the Incident
DHEC Able Contracting Fire Updates