What’s next for cleanup of giant debris pile? EPA soon ending role

Local News

Federal agency expected to hand over the project to DHEC in next 2-3 weeks

RIDGELAND, S.C. (WSAV) – The involvement of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at the site of Able Construction’s giant trash pile will only last for two to three more weeks.

The EPA has been helping dig through the pile and put out fires that have caused potentially toxic smoke in the air near the Jasper County site.

It will now be handed over to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), which will take the next step in the process to get rid of the giant pile and hopefully get life back to normal for nearby residents.

“They give indications that it is not dangerous,” explained South Carolina State Senator Tom Davis. “They give an indication that it is not harmful to the public.”

That’s what the sensors at three different spots in the area, including Okatie Elementary and Sun City are saying about the air quality near the giant debris pile site.

This as the EPA continues to move out thousands and thousands of pounds of construction debris — much of it black from the fires that were burning underneath.

The EPA will leave in weeks, taking with them almost 7,000 tons of material and leaving about 117,000 pounds behind. Material that the Department of Health and Environmental Control will then be in charge of.

Then, DHEC plans to spend about $3.5 million to finish off the job because it’s considered a health emergency and threat to the community. Many of those community members are still not back at home.

“They (the EPA) don’t seem to have any concerns based on testing about the air quality,” explains Davis. “They continue to have concerns about the volume of truck traffic. But they are hopeful of redirecting that truck traffic another route.”

DHEC will monitor the air and the water for any potential issues or chemicals that came from the site. The agency will leave the stormwater management to Beaufort and Jasper counties.

“That was always one of the problems with that site. It wasn’t a permitted activity,” says Davis. “It was sort of exempt when it was done seven years ago. It didn’t have a stormwater management plan.”

“When you are talking about watersheds in Beaufort County and in Jasper County you are talking about something that’s extremely important to the residents here,” he added. “I think its really critical we stay on this. Trust but verify.”

The pile should be down to 25,000 cubic feet in the 60-70 days after the EPA leaves. That’s when DHEC will ask the South Carolina legislature to come up with a plan and with the rest of the money needed to finish the job.

The other goal is to find an alternate route for the series of debris trucks. Only then will the folks still evacuated from the site be allowed to return home.

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