Coal Ash Discharge Incident On The Waccamaw River

The coal ash ponds at Santee Cooper's former Grainger Generating Station continue to be a potential threat to the health of the Waccamaw River. During the historic flood event last fall, efforts by Santee Cooper narrowly prevented a catastrophic spill of coal ash into the river. Unfortunately, a recent accidental discharge event may have polluted the Waccamaw River with sediment from pond 2 which still contains 50,000 tons of coal ash. It is difficult to determine how much sediment may have entered the river but the upper estimate is 7.5 cubic yards – about the volume of a dumpster.


The Waccamaw Riverkeeper was informed of the accidental discharge by Santee Cooper, advised of corrective action to prevent future discharges, and subsequently reviewed the water testing results from the day of the incident. Levels of toxic components of coal ash – including arsenic, cyanide, copper, selenium, and mercury – were far below the SC DHEC water quality standards for human health as well as the permitted discharge limits.  Results indicate no significant contamination from coal ash to the Waccamaw.


We remain vigilant during the ongoing excavation and removal of coal ash from unlined ponds adjacent to the Waccamaw River in Conway. Last fall during Hurricane Florence and its flooding aftermath, 200,000 tons of coal ash remained in Pond 2 at the site (Pond #1 had previously been excavated of its coal ash). Currently, 50,000 tons of coal ash remain but are expected to be excavated and removed by mid-March. 


This accidental discharge event and the risk of flooded coal ash ponds underscores the need for the expeditious removal of the coal ash at this site and at all sites within our greater Winyah Bay watershed. Our water resources are important to us and deserving of our protection. We continue to be vigilant and look forward to the day, hopefully very soon, when the coal ash will be completely removed from the site and no longer threaten our river and the communities that rely on the Waccamaw for drinking and recreation.

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