Utility completes required excavation of millions of tons of toxic coal ash
Ash removal from banks of the Wateree River was mandated by a court settlement
COLUMBIA, SC — Dominion Energy has finished excavating 3.5 million tons of arsenic-contaminated coal ash from its Wateree Station on the banks of the Wateree River, fulfilling a mandate from a court settlement finalized in 2012.
The settlement reached by the Southern Environmental Law Center representing the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation required SCE&G (now Dominion Energy) to dig out coal ash the utility had stored in unlined pits bordering the Wateree River. Arsenic from the coal ash had leaked into groundwater and then into the river.
As SCE&G removed the coal ash, arsenic contamination levels in groundwater have dropped by at least 90 percent.
“With this milestone, the Wateree River and the Congaree National Park are safer than they have been in decades, and the continuing flow of coal ash pollution into the Wateree River has ended,” said Frank Holleman, a senior attorney at SELC. “This outcome demonstrates the importance of the enforcement of our anti-pollution laws by citizen groups like the Catawba Riverkeeper, and other utilities should follow Dominion’s lead by listening to their communities and cleaning up their leaking, unlined coal ash pits.”
Prior to Dominion acquiring SCE&G earlier this year, SCE&G had taken action to remove all the coal ash from all its unlined storage pits in South Carolina, in addition to Wateree. Since 2011, SELC and community groups have launched legal challenges and public efforts to apply anti-pollution laws to coal ash pits operated by several utilities across the Southeast. Since then:
• Utilities have been required and have committed to excavate more than 250 millions of tons of coal ash in the region.
• All South Carolina utilities committed to removing coal ash from all unlined waterfront pits in the state.
For more than 30 years, the Southern Environmental Law Center has used the power of the law to champion the environment of the Southeast. With more than 80 attorneys and nine offices across the region, SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect our natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region. www.SouthernEnvironment.org