Coal ash landfill causing uproar

By D. C. Moody -

PICKENS COUNTY — In 2007 Pickens County entered into an agreement with MRR Southern LLC, a Raleigh-based company, for the development of a construction and demolition landfill.

Now, eight years later, MRR Southern has applied for permits from the state that would allow the landfill — still undeveloped — to accept coal ash.

That doesn’t sit very well with the Pickens County legislative delegation.

Sen. Larry Martin, Rep. Gary Clary, Rep. Neal Collins and Rep. Davey Hiott said they will oppose any expansion of the facility’s intended use beyond the disposal of construction and demolition debris.

“The bottom line is the agreement Pickens County made was for a C&D (construction and demolition) landfill we have a need for,” Martin said. “The agreement doesn’t contemplate the addition of coal ash. That’s the part I am most furious about, the county as well. Residents close by are upset, and even though I haven’t heard from anyone in the industrial complex, I’m certain they don’t want it in their backyard.”

Clary said he had no idea this was even being suggested by MRR.

“As a matter of fact I was unavailable to sign the letter when it was written but received a copy from Sen. Martin and have placed that letter and a cover letter to Director Heigl with DHEC,” Clary said. “I am in full agreement with the letter and reinforced my strong opposition to any variance being granted for this landfill. This never came across my radar. I know I want to have a conversation with Director Heigl about this and how to stop it.”

Martin cited previous environmental issues created by toxins in Pickens County, namely PCBs, and his opposition to the county having to deal with another concern such as this again.

“Pickens County has been plagued by environmental issues back to the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s, specifically PCB’s in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s and I don’t intend to sanction anything like this which could cause a great problem,” Martin said. “Coal ash is a different animal and the thought of the disposal of a toxin like this in Pickens County when we don’t generate it is out of the question.”

Martin and Clary stated emphatically they would do all within their power to prevent the dumping of coal ash in Pickens County.

“You can rest assured, DHEC will enforce its regulations to the letter to see everything is done correctly before issuing any variances on this permit, which will play into our favor as they take issues such as this one seriously,” Martin said. “And you can rest assured I will be doing everything I can to put a stop to this.”

According to statements made by members of Pickens County Council, the landfill was never intended for this purpose and they are as surprised as the county’s residents this has become an issue.

The agreement for the landfill, located at S.C. 93 and Cartee Road, was originally created as part of an agreement to expand the county’s landfill facilities when the present availability was becoming limited in 2007. The proposed site borders on the industrial park in Liberty.

MRR Southern LLC, citing economic downturn in 2008 at a meeting in January 2015, never began construction despite the issuance of a permit by DHEC. The original intent was to dispose of non-toxic construction and demolition debris.

Notice has been given to Pickens County Council that the company is moving forward with the construction of the site, eight years later, and has made no statement concerning coal ash as the primary waste to be shipped to Pickens County.

In March 2015, MRR applied for and received approval to install a liner to accommodate Class 2 coal ash waste, with the application stating the purpose of the amended permit was to add the synthetic liner “so the facility could potentially receive (less toxic) Class 2 coal ash from power generating utilities.”

In the intervening months, MRR has also applied for “a significant increase” in the original 70,500 tons per year permit originally issued but not ruled on by the regulatory agency.

DHEC has asked for more information from MRR concerning where the waste is produced and how much but has yet to receive the information.

Local industry leaders also expressed concern over the possible disposal of coal ash in the county.

“Manufactures Caring for Pickens County (MCPC) is opposed to this landfill proposal due to the lack of any published study on the environmental impact, the economic impact, or the suitability of the current site to contain the toxins,” said Tom O’Hanlan, CEO of Sealevel Systems Inc. “The transport method of coal ash to the site, the remoteness of this site to the power generation plants responsible are also concerns and unknown at this time. Additionally, several MCPC companies are within close proximity and are deeply concerned about the landfill coming to Liberty.

“This will have a direct impact on our facilities as well as other businesses and residences in the area,” he added. “It is inconceivable that such a project would be approved without considering the impact on the health and well being of those most directly affected, not to mention the potential business and financial damage to companies located in the Commerce Park and other nearby areas.”

Calls to MRR’s legal representative were not returned.

By D. C. Moody

Reach D. C. Moody at 864-855-0355.

Reach D. C. Moody at 864-855-0355.


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