It’s almost too stupefying to believe: New Jersey doesn’t want to expose its citizens to 300 rail cars of nuclear-contaminated dirt. So it wants to dump it in South Carolina, where such things actually can happen — and they can happen at a low cost.
It isn’t enough that South Carolina allows two other states to ship mountains of their waste to us, increasing the size and number of landfills at the expense of our natural resources. Now there is a real possibility that 15,000 tons of that waste will be contaminated with radioactive, infectious materials.
Sen. Phil Leventis, D-Sumter, is justifiably outraged. “Everyone — our governor and citizens alike — should shout, WIMBY: ‘Why in My Back Yard?’ ” he writes on today’s Commentary page.
It seems state law can be interpreted as allowing New Jersey to send the contaminated dirt to the Lee County dump near Bishopville, even though it does not allow household chemicals like pesticides and solvents. Indeed, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control initially approved the shipment of nuke dirt. DHEC’s new director, Catherine Templeton, wisely withdrew that permission and said the permit would have to be subject to public comment.
Even better, DHEC’s regulations should very clearly ban radioactive material from solid municipal waste landfills. The Legislature and the governor need to be more concerned about citizens’ health and quality of life than the dollars that would come in as a result of allowing radioactive material to be dumped here.
The Conservation Voters of South Carolina have collected 528 signatures on a petition asking Mrs. Templeton, legislators and Gov. Nikki Haley to reject this “attempt to clean up New Jersey by soiling South Carolina.”
The petition says, “For too long, South Carolina has been used as the nation’s ‘pay toilet’ for trash, nuclear waste and hazardous and infectious materials.”
The nation’s nuclear reactor waste is stored in the South Carolina’s Savannah River Site. Landfills throughout the state are the depository for so much waste from out of state that they are commonly referred to as mega-dumps now. Because they are often located in poor, rural areas without a powerful political voice, like Marlboro, Williamsburg and Lee counties, concerned citizens at the grass-roots level are continually fighting the powerful waste industry to protect the health of their environment and community.
Make South Carolina business-friendly. Bring new jobs and new industry. Facilitate growth by seeing that government runs efficiently.
But don’t sacrifice the very things that make South Carolina appealing to citizens, prospective citizens and business owners.
If the waste is too hazardous for New Jersey, it’s too hazardous for us.