NORTH CHARLESTON - The hulking garbage incinerator in North Charleston that was the destination for most of Charleston County's household waste sits silent now, awaiting demolition, but a recent state report is a reminder of why some pushed for the facility to close.
The Montenay Waste-to-Energy Recycling Facility, as the incinerator is officially known, violated state and federal air-quality regulations in November 2008, exceeding limits for cadmium and lead, according to a state Department of Health and Environmental Control report.
Montenay Charleston Resource Recovery agreed to pay a $15,000 penalty, which was paid in April. The violation and the fine were noted in a June DHEC report. The fine money goes to the state's general fund.
"That fine is probably toward the higher end of the scale, the reason being because it was emissions-related, and they had a similar violation before," said Adam Myrick, director of public information for DHEC.
Incinerator manager Lee Bazzle, one of two remaining employees at the facility, said the air-quality violation was corrected as soon as it was discovered, and was related to the plant's 20-year-old emission-control equipment.
"We recognized that we needed to improve our air-pollution control equipment, and we planned to do so," he said.
Bazzle said the company would have installed state-of-the-art pollution controls if Charleston County had agreed to continue using the facility.
"The issue in 2008 was with particulates -- the fine particles that make their way into the air as part of the combustion process," he said. "We were going to upgrade all of the pollution controls at the plant as part of our proposed contract with the county, at our cost."
Charleston County Council decided last year to not renew the contract, effectively shutting down the incinerator after a 20-year run. The county now sends half of its household waste to Bees Ferry Landfill in West Ashley and the rest to Oakridge Landfill in Dorchester County.
The incinerator used to take more than two-thirds of the county's waste, about 212,000 tons yearly, and converted it to ash and electric power.
Those who lived near the facility, however, complained about the noise, odors and fears about polluted air -- illustrated by the recently disclosed air-quality violation. County Council Chairman Teddie Pryor of North Charleston led the charge to close the incinerator down.
"How could County Council members even think of renewing the contract for this polluting incinerator in close proximity to neighborhoods where air toxins are already a huge concern?" Pryor said a year ago in a published editorial.
A USA Today investigation had earlier ranked the air around five North Charleston public schools as among the most polluted in the nation.
The incinerator is among many industrial facilities that contributed to air-quality concerns in North Charleston. Factories, port activities and ships, car and truck traffic, and mercury-laced emissions from coal-fired power plants all play a role.
Last year, a $1.2 million grant was approved by the National Institutes of Health to study the North Charleston neighborhoods of Accabee, Chicora/Cherokee, Five Mile, Howard Heights, Liberty Hill, Union Heights and Windsor, to see if there are links between residents' health and industrial pollution.
Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or firstname.lastname@example.org.