South Carolina wants to bring in new investment from out of state, but 30 trainloads of radioactive dirt isn’t exactly what development officials have in mind. So far, state regulations have been adequate to keep the radon-tainted dirt out of the Lee County landfill where it was headed.
But the New Jersey firm that hoped to send it down south is appealing the decision by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control to keep it out of South Carolina. DHEC says the permit for the Lee County doesn’t allow radioactive waste at the landfill.
And DHEC officials should know. The state has fought a number of battles on the radioactive waste front, and ultimately joined with two other states — New Jersey and Connecticut —to form a compact to sharply limit the volume of that material being dumped in South Carolina. The compact limits radioactive waste disposal to those three states. South Carolina was long an attractive site for low-level radioactive waste because it has an active waste site in Barnwell. Most states don’t, and few have shown an inclination to get into the business.
And even though New Jersey is one of the states that is allowed to dump radioactive waste in South Carolina, that material is limited to Barnwell, not the landfill in Lee County.
“We caught it because we have good staff, because the regulations are doing what they need to do,” DHEC Director Catherine Templeton tells us. “It’s sort of a non-event.”
Even so, given the state’s repeated bouts over waste issues, DHEC would do well to keep a close eye on major waste clients, particularly those with glow-in-the-dark garbage.
It has been an effort of decades, but South Carolina has largely managed to extricate itself from the list of preferred sites for out-of-state disposal of the worst of waste material, including radioactive and hazardous.
Unfortunately, South Carolina remains a popular destination for out-of-state garbage that mostly comes in by train to so called mega-dumps. Apparently the price of disposal and the comparative laxity of state restrictions are particularly attractive to waste generators from the Northeast.
In a letter to Ms. Templeton, Rep. Grady A. Brown, D-Bishopville, spoke forcefully for the state as well as his constituents on the waste issue:
“Stop allowing Lee County and South Carolina from becoming the dumping ground for out-of-state waste!” he wrote. “Enough is enough!
“This is our home, it is where we raise our children and grandchildren and this latest plan to just dump what you want in South Carolina has to be stopped.”
Indeed, continuing efforts to permit large-scale landfills for out-of-state garbage ought to be stopped by regulators whenever possible.
Those efforts typically pit well-heeled companies against the residents of rural counties. Potential sites for mega-dumps have been sought in Marlboro, Williamsburg, Cherokee and Horry counties.
Unfortunately there are still limits to what the state can stop at the border. That fact alone should encourage the closest scrutiny of permit requests for large-scale dumps with more capacity than is locally needed, as well as tougher restrictions from the Legislature.
But radioactive waste already qualifies as a restricted material, unless it’s on the way to the Barnwell site.