Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Congaree Riverkeeper Bill Stangler plans on suing SCANA along with the Environmental Protection Agency and United States Army Corps of Engineers.
"This river is a centerpiece of our community whether it's canoeing, kayaking, tubing, fishing and yet right here in the middle of it we have this toxic legacy left by SCANA that we have to deal with," Stangler said. "From the mouth of this creek here (and) all the way down about half way down to Blossom Street, 2000 feet; this is a significant portion of the river that's got this toxic coal tar in it."
The utility company originally said they wanted to remove the substance, but now say that method does not meet all of the necessary requirements of permitting agencies.
"Over the last several years they've moved away from that very quietly and instead of a clean up now we're being offered a cover up," said Stangler.
According to SCANA spokesperson Ginny Jones they plan to use a sediment capping method.
"Cost was not a factor in the recent determination to move forward with the capping alternative to address the impacted sediments in the Congaree River. Our strong preference from the beginning was to remove those sediments from the river. In fact, SCE&G worked with local, state and federal agencies, and multiple environmental consultants, to the exclusion of all other previously identified alternatives (including capping) for six years to find a way to do it. Unfortunately, there simply is no method for sediment removal that will meet all of the requirements of the permitting agencies, specifically the Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies," Jones said in a statement. "The purpose of capping is to prevent material from moving, and we would continue to monitor the capped area to make sure it is working properly."
"That's not going to solve this problem. It's going to kick the can down the road for every future generation to deal with," Stangler said. "The direct human health concerns are when people get this stuff on them you know, so direct skin exposure. It can cause skin irritation, a burning feeling on your skin and the people who have been exposed to it have said that it burns their eyes. It burns their upper respiratory system (and) their sinuses."
Stangler filed a letter of intent to sue on Tuesday and hopes that this will force SCANA to get rid of the coal tar completely.
"They should clean this up. They should remove the coal tar from this river that everyone here cares so much about and so many people use," he said.
The tar was originally caused decades ago from a plant that converted coal into gas used for heating and lighting.