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I met onsite yesterday with officials of the South Carolina Department and Environmental Control to discuss the situation at Abel Contracting’s Recovered Material Processing Facility in Jasper County.  For the past month, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has been in charge of extinguishing fires at the Facility caused by spontaneous combustions – efforts that involved not only dousing the piles with water, but also removing material from the site.  To date, more than 7,187 tons of material have been removed to other facilities with better environmental protections and at locations more remote from heavily populated areas and environmentally sensitive watersheds.  The EPA’s operations were suspended last week because of Hurricane Dorian, but they resumed yesterday.

The EPA has said it will relinquish jurisdiction at the Facility to DHEC in the next two to three weeks, and DHEC advised me that it will then, over the course of the ensuing 60 to 70 days, continue to remove material from the Facility, at an estimated cost of $3.548 million and using funds on hand, until the approximately 117,000 cubic yards of material still onsite is reduced to 25,185 cubic yards – an emergency action by the agency necessary to prevent an immediate threat to public health and the environment.  DHEC said the cost of removing the remaining 25,185 cubic yards of material would be approximately $964,000, and that it would seek an appropriation in that amount when the General Assembly reconvenes next January, and then finish the job.

At DHEC’s request, I reached out to officials at Beaufort and Jasper counties yesterday to ask that the two counties jointly monitor the stormwater runoff at the Facility until such time as all material has been completely removed; the Facility is located in Jasper County, but is proximate to watersheds in Beaufort County.  Jasper County administrator Andy Fulghum and Beaufort County Council chairman Stu Rodman both advised me that the counties’ officials would develop a plan to monitor the stormwater as the Facility is being cleaned up and shut down.

Over the course of the past month, Rep. Weston Newton, Rep. Bill Herbkersman and I have met and discussed this matter with not only DHEC officials – in particular, DHEC director Rick Toomey and the agency’s director of environmental affairs, Myra Reece – but also with Gov. Henry McMaster and his staff.  This situation has been treated with the urgency it warrants because Gov. McMaster made good on his promise to “watch things like a hawk and to take whatever action was necessary.” I thank him – and Mr. Toomey and Ms. Reece -- for their leadership and stewardship.    

In closing, it is important to keep in mind that the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, a/k/a Superfund, and the South Carolina Waste Management Act authorize the federal and state governments, respectively, to commence legal actions to recover public funds expended in order to extinguish the fires and remove the material at the Facility.  We should all encourage and expect the United States Attorney for South Carolina and the Attorney General for the State of South Carolina to pursue those actions and hold any culpable private parties accountable.  
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Paid for by Tom Davis for State Senate  | P.O. Box 1107 | Beaufort, SC 29901

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