SCE&G has dropped its legal effort to place a coal ash landfill in Colleton County in favor of constructing what it calls a "state-of-the-art" facility for the toxic material in neighboring Dorchester County.
Power company spokesman Robert Yanity said Friday plans call for constructing the new landfill on property where SCE&G already stores coal ash in ponds that are nearing capacity.
The ponds have been targets of criticism by neighbors and environmentalists because of possible leaks and the resulting threat to drinking water and the pristine ACE Basin.
Some upper Dorchester County residents also oppose the new coal ash landfill.
Yanity said SCE&G now plans to dig up the wet storage pits, construct an above-the-ground, lined landfill where coal ash would be stored in a modern "state-of-the-art" dry storage. Dry storage presents a far lower threat of leakage and environmental damage.
The landfill is the same basic design as the one the company had planned to construct in Colleton, but by focusing on the Dorchester site the company can get rid of the old ponds and still get a modern dry storage facility, Yanity said.
Frank Holleman, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, welcomed SCE&G's decision to drop its appeal of Colleton County's decision last year to reject the landfill.
"We're happy that Colleton County and the gateway to the ACE Basin will be protected," he said. However, he expressed concern about the proximity of the Dorchester site to the Edisto River.
In a series of heated hearings last year, many Colleton County residents, supported by the Coastal Conservation League and the Southern Environmental Law Center, persuaded the county to reject a zoning change that would have allowed the dump.
SCE&G appealed that decision but dropped it this week, Yanity said.
The power company originally proposed a 15-story-high dry storage landfill on a 1,700 acre site in Colleton County.
Yanity said the company has decided to drop the height to about 10 stories at the Dorchester landfill. He also said that the company plans to retain the Colleton site as an option in the event that the Dorchester plan does not work out.
Coal ash is the byproduct of coal-burning plants. It can contain a host of hazardous metals, including arsenic, selenium and cadmium. SCE&G recycles large amounts of the ash, which can be used to make cement and concrete blocks.