The state-owned utility Santee Cooper has agreed to remove 1.3 million tons of coal ash from its Grainger power plant beside South Carolina’s blackwater Waccamaw River.
The agreement settles lawsuits filed by the Waccamaw Riverkeeper, the Coastal Conservation League and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. The Waccamaw flows from North Carolina into South Carolina.
Santee Cooper, South Carolina’s largest electric utility, said Tuesday it will also remove and recycle ash from ponds at its Jefferies and Winyah power plants. A South Carolina-based company, SEFA Group Inc., announced plans for a $40 million facility to turn ash from the Winyah plant into a product used to make concrete.
In 2012, South Carolina Electric & Gas reached a similar agreement on another bi-state river, the Catawba-Wateree. Sued by the Catawba Riverkeeper, SCE&G agreed to remove 2.4 million tons of coal ash.
The Southern Environmental Law Center, which represented the environmental groups in both cases, also wants Duke Energy to remove ash from its Riverbend power plant west of Charlotte. About 2.7 million tons of ash is stored in ponds at the plant, which sits beside Mountain Island Lake, the region’s main water supply.
“There is no reason why people in North Carolina should have less protection from toxic pollution than people in South Carolina,” said senior attorney Frank Holleman.
Arsenic has been found in lake sediment near Riverbend, but Duke says its ash isn’t hurting the lake’s water quality.
Duke has said it will “properly close” the ash ponds at Riverbend and five other retired North Carolina power plants. The company says it has not yet made site-by-site decisions whether to bury the ash in place or remove it for disposal in a lined landfill.
Santee Cooper stored ash from its Grainger plant in ponds beside the Waccamaw, the law center says. High levels of arsenic from the ponds contaminated groundwater and the river, the center said.
Under the settlement, it said, Santee Cooper will remove the ash and soil beneath over seven to 10 years and continue groundwater testing.
Henderson: 704-358-5051; Twitter: @bhender