RIDGELAND, S.C. — The leader of South Carolina's health and environmental agency says putting out a trash fire that has been smoldering for months is the department's top priority.     

The fire at a recycling company in Jasper County started in early June with hazardous levels of smoke particles and a voluntary evacuation of a neighborhood nearby happening earlier this month.

Department of Health and Environmental Control Director Rick Toomey said at an agency board meeting Thursday the department hired an outside company to put out the fire at Able Contracting Inc.

The Island Packet of Hilton Head reports that Toomey also said it can't wait for delayed federal testing of water and air samples near the fire and is paying a private firm to see if there are more hazards than just smoke.