Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Have a little arsenic with your water

Posted By on Tue, Oct 6, 2009 at 3:03 PM

Lake Wateree, in South Carolina, which is part of the Catawba River system, is being poisoned by a coal ash pond located near the lake's bank.

Streams of a poisonous, potentially cancer-causing substance recently were found draining to the Wateree River from SCE&G's coal-fired power plant in lower Richland County.

Consultants discovered elevated levels of arsenic seeping from an earthen wall along the power plant's 80-acre coal ash waste pond, just a few miles upstream from Congaree National Park. The wall is supposed to block pollution from moving out of the pond and into the Wateree River, less than 300 feet away.

One of the consultants, J.C. Hare, said leaks he saw last month in the earthen wall created two streams of arsenic-tainted runoff that in places measured several feet wide.

Their reports, to be discussed this week as part of a court case against the power company, raise new questions about SCE&G's ability to contain pollution on the property - and the state Department of Health and Environmental Control's inability to stop the problem, critics say.

Some area residents fear pollution from the site could one day taint their drinking water, ruin the Wateree River and lower property values.

SCE&G officials declined interview requests by The State newspaper, but said in a statement they "look forward to elaborating further" on the test results in court.

The coal ash pond has leaked toward the river before. But Columbia lawyer and state Rep. James Smith is worried that it has happened again.

Arsenic seeping from the coal ash pond during the past 15 years has contaminated groundwater beneath the property at levels exceeding the federal safe drinking water standard, records show. Seepage also has been found between the pond and the Wateree River, a 2000 SCE&G report shows.

DHEC cited SCE&G in 2001 for violating groundwater standards for coal ash pond leaks, but did not fine the company. Instead, the power company struck a deal with DHEC, pledging to try to reduce the groundwater contamination.

Smith says the groundwater pollution is continuing - and so are surface-water leaks to the river. That should be a concern to everyone, he said.

Read the rest of this article from The State here.

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