Crews battle blaze on heaping pile of trash in Jasper County

Published: Aug. 12, 2019 at 11:19 PM EDT
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JASPER COUNTY, S.C. (WTOC) - Hired contractor crews are finally battling the blaze at a recycling plant where trash has been burning for almost three weeks, releasing toxic fumes in the air.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control hired a new contractor to fight the fire at Able Contracting facility in Jasper County.

They started aggressive firefighting Sunday.

The Valdez family returned back to Schinger Avenue Monday afternoon just before leaving again.

“We are just coming to make dinner and leave quickly, because she can’t be smelling the smoke,” Jenny Valdez said.

None of the 20 something residents living near this burning pile of trash should be inhaling the smoke. Matthew Huyser, the on-site coordinator with the EPA, told WTOC on Monday that they found Acrolein in the air samples. It’s a particle that is toxic for your lungs.

“We’re working very closely with Jasper County and those residents if extended evacuation and relocation is needed. They will assume responsibility for those residents,” Huyser said.

The situation is even more serious for Jenny Valdez. She’s five months pregnant. Before the evacuation, she was staying in her house just steps away from this health hazard.

“After the fire started, I couldn’t sleep. I was vomiting and nauseous because the air inside was getting the same bad smell,” Jenny Valdez said.

Now, the Valdezes and other residents are staying at local hotels in Jasper County, but Jenny says the doctors have no way of knowing what kind of impact her exposure to the smoke could have on her baby.

Water hoses have been spraying water non-stop Monday around the big burning debris pit. The contractors will carefully pull the pile apart, put the fire out as they go, and ship the trash to a landfill. There’s no way of knowing how long that will take.

“It will take several days to get a handle on how progress is moving along, because of the size of the pile and the number of hot spots that need to be attacked,” Huyser said.

Fires of this type are complex and likely continue to burn deep within the material, even when flames are not visible on the surface.

The EPA on-site coordinator says over the next few days, they will be able to see how effective their measures have been and predict how much longer mediation will take.

Click here to check air monitoring samples or here to get live updates.

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Heaping pile of debris has a community in Ridgeland heated

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