RIDGELAND, S.C. (WSAV) – As the smoke continues to pour out of a giant trash pile in Jasper County, the attention now turns to how to put it out and what to do with the people who live next to it.
This weekend, Jasper County officially announced a voluntary evacuation for the people who live in the area.
This comes after DHEC air quality monitors in the area have shown an unhealthy amount of particulate in the air around the site.
Wednesday, it was declared an “imminent and substantial danger” to the people who live and work nearby.
DHEC monitor the air quality at the end of July and found on four different days levels of “fine particulate matter” registered as high as 16 times the EPA safe standards.
That’s part of the reason why the agency issued an emergency order late Wednesday.
It calls the smoke and fire coming from the pile an “emergency requiring immediate action to protect public health.”
DHEC issued an order that able contracting “immediately cease operations” at the site and monitor the smoke and fire 24 hours a day.
Jasper County EMA tells News 3 that at least 10 people have taken advantage of the hotel rooms paid for by the county.
“We do have somewhere where we can sleep at night. we don’t have to sleep and breathe at this,” says Carna Curiel.
Carina Curiel is one of those people who live nearby and have evacuated with her family. She says she has experienced a variety of health problems, from breathing issues to hands that feel like “powder”, to throat burning sensations when she walks outside.
“This has just absorbed me,” says Carina. “Because of him (points toward pile and Chandler Lloyd)
While she appreciates the hotel room, she says it is difficult to leave her belongings behind. She also wonders why it has taken this long for the County to step up.
“The county is responsible for it., why don’t they just make it all a landfill.”
Jasper County Firefighters are going to the site 1-2 times a day according to the Chief to check for hot spots, but will only put water on those spots if flames can be seen.
“Jasper County’s plan is to go out and apply water on visible fire when it is shown, known when we get calls to that effect,” explains Chief Frank Edwards, Jasper EMA Director. “We will go out and suppress the visible fire that is there. The long term plan or approach needs to be an entire mitigation plan to remove the materials and get down to the deep-seated nature of where the fire is with heavy equipment to put the fire. that’s what we are working with DHEC and the EPA on is coming up with that long term approach.”
People who work for Able Contracting, the company that owns the site, says Jasper County Firefighters have come to the scene to inspect the smoke, but don’t understand why they are not putting water on the hot spots. Chief says it is about time, manpower, and effectiveness.
“They burn very deep, they burn mostly in locations that you can’t access,” explains Chief Edwards. “So for us to continually apply water to the smoke it doesn’t mean we are going to get to the fire. because the smoke may come up 15-20-30 feet from where the fire is.”
Able Contracting’s owner Chandler Lloyd filed a legal document late Friday which says he does not have the money to pay for a private fire suppression and debris removal firm. Now DHEC, the EPA, and Jasper County are working on new solutions to this growing problem.
Chief Edwards says it is not as easy as just smothering the fire because of its large size and the fire that seems to be burning underneath the top layer. It is a difficult process and one that should not be undertaken lightly.
Curiel is concerned about the fires, her health and leaving her home. A dozen or more families live near the site, mostly renters according to Carina. She owns her house and wonders if the property is worth anything anymore, or if she will ever return now.
“Where do you see yourself in 6 months?”
“God only knows. I don’t know I’m not a fortune teller.”
She also believes that Chandler Lloyd should “pay” for what he’s done.
“He’s taken our lives, all of ours, not just mine, my children, my family but all these families. He’s done it and He needs to pay,” says Carina.
“Nobody can’t do something to somebody like this and not pay for it. This is people’s lives.”
One of Lloyd’s employees blames the problems on the County. He says the company bought a new shredder, tankers to take debris out, and has thousands of pounds of shredded material at the ready to move from the site and take the pile down to a more reasonable level. But now that the DHEC order has shut them down, none of that will happen.
Chief Edwards says Federal, State, and Local officials are now working together on new solutions. They are also asking the American Red Cross to potentially get involved after the County pays for that one week stay at a hotel, to potentially find a long term place for families to stay.
Carina hopes this will be finished soon, for everyone involved.
“It has taken our lives, all of ours, not just mine, all of these families, these children, what happens next?”
The neighbors say they have not contacted a lawyer yet, but may consider legal action.