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South Carolina Electric & Gas and the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation announced this week they have reached a settlement of a suit brought by the Southern Environmental Law Center regarding ash storage at Wateree Station in Eastover. The settlement provides additional commitments to the process and timetables established in an October 2011 Memorandum of Agreement between SCE&G and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Specifically, the settlement contains a binding agreement to remove all the coal ash now stored in impoundments at the Wateree Station to lined landfill storage away from the Wateree River or recycling of the ash, and also accelerates the timetable for the commitment SCE&G made in the MOA for the complete removal of coal ash.
“As part of the settlement, SCE&G is obligated to close the coal ash pond and switch to a dry ash handling system,” said Rick Gaskins, executive director and Catawba Riverkeeper, via email.
“We hope this will set the precedent to motivate Duke to close its coal ash ponds on Lake Norman, Mountain Island Lake and Lake Wylie.
“SCE&G’s commitments are a major step forward for the protection of the Catawba-Wateree Basin,” Gaskins said.
The Southern Environmental Law Center brought suit on behalf of the Catawba Riverkeeper against SCE&G under the South Carolina Pollution Control Act. That case is resolved by the settlement.
In the MOA, SCE&G laid out its plan to proactively and voluntarily remove the ash from the ash ponds and transition to dry ash handling and storage at the plant site.
Using the experience of the past year since the signing of the MOA, SCE&G made refinements and provided further definition to the plan that resulted in the settlement agreement. The settlement agreement provides that 240,000 tons of coal ash will be removed from the wet storage facility in the first three years and provides for complete removal of coal ash by Dec. 31, 2020.
“This is an historic agreement,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “SCE&G has bound itself to remove its coal ash from the impoundments near the Wateree River, has accelerated its schedule for removal, and has committed itself to improved handling and storage of coal ash.”
This settlement does not exempt SCE&G from obtaining the necessary regulatory permits. SCE&G will obtain all required permits through DHEC and other appropriate regulatory agencies.