PICKENS COUNTY — The issue of coal ash disposal in Pickens County by NC-based company MRR Pickens LLC and the resulting furor over the use of county for the disposal of toxic byproducts, has prompted Sen. Larry Martin to introduce legislation reforming some of the state’s laws concerning disposal sites.
When Martin introduced the bill — S. 1061 — Feb. 4 as an across the desk reading for comments he stated:
“This legislation has one purpose, and that is to keep the disposal of coal ash out of Pickens County. It will also keep it out of your communities unless it meets the stringent Class 3 requirements. It’s my understanding that all of the South Carolina based utilities that are disposing of coal ash have agreed to do so in a Class 3 landfill. I see no reason at all that the Legislature shouldn’t codify that requirement so that out-of-state companies follow the same requirement.”
While the current requirement by statute is a Class 2 landfill, Martin stated there was agreement already in principle by companies who handle toxic byproducts from the production electricity to use Class 3 landfills for the purpose but no guarantees an out of state company, such as MRR, would follow the same principle.
Martin also feels the county dealt above board with MRR in its agreement to provide a Class 2 landfill to Pickens County, but is not as sure MRR dealt above board in its intentions when the agreement was first formulated.
“The current landfill permit is a Class 2 permit from when the county entered into the original agreement with MRR, which was to handle construction debris. The county landfill was filling up and another site was needed,” Martin said. “I believe the county had no idea the permit would make it possible for a toxic material such as coal ash to be dumped at the site.”
In essence, S. 1061 if passed would change the requirements for South Carolina in the disposal of toxic byproducts such as coal ash and possibly solve the problem in Pickens County, though there is still litigation concerning the issue to still be played out with a date in court set for Feb. 18.
“I don’t know how all of this will play out in court. The county attorney has assured me they had no idea what the liner was for when MRR applied for a permit to install one here in Pickens County and even if they knew what could have been done,” Martin said. “This is an example of what could happen when dealing with a private company in a situation like this. Being a private company, they now own the land and the landfill itself.”
The liner referred to by Martin is a lining which is to be installed under Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards to accommodate coal ash. MRR applied for a permit from DHEC in the spring of 2015 to install such a liner in the Pickens County facility.
While there is still a court hearing ahead which will be pivotal in determining the outcome of the dispute, Martin feels there may have been warning signs by which to learn.
“It should have been a red flag when the liner permit was applied for last year,” he said. ” I don’t believe MRR was forthcoming with the county about their intentions or what the lining permit was actually for.”
Since the controversy began Pickens County has moved to revoke the permit to MRR in an effort to prevent the transportation to and disposal of coal ash in Pickens County.
Reach D. C. Moody at 864-855-0355.