State senator estimates S.C. will spend millions in debris fire cleanup

Able Contracting owner sits down with WTOC

JASPER COUNTY, S.C. (WTOC) - It could cost about $4.5 million to remove a smoldering debris pile that caught fire weeks ago in rural Jasper County, South Carolina.

That’s according to information released late Monday by South Carolina State Sen. Tom Davis (R).

Since July, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has managed the firefighting efforts at a privately held construction and recycling debris facility owned by Able Contracting. Air quality sensors also have been in place, along with storm water management, as water used to fight the fire has runoff from the burning debris pile.

It’s an expensive effort the EPA has estimated so far to cost federal taxpayers about $500,000. In the next two to three weeks, those duties and associated costs will shift to the state when the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control takes control of the site, Davis said, in a prepared statement.

In the statement, Davis breaks down what the remaining cost will be to completely remove the trash pile:

“The EPA has said it will relinquish jurisdiction at the Facility to DHEC in the next two to three weeks, and DHEC advised me that it will then, over the course of the ensuing 60 to 70 days, continue to remove material from the Facility, at an estimated cost of $3.548 million and using funds on hand, until the approximately 117,000 cubic yards of material still onsite is reduced to 25,185 cubic yards – an emergency action by the agency necessary to prevent an immediate threat to public health and the environment. DHEC said the cost of removing the remaining 25,185 cubic yards of material would be approximately $964,000, and that it would seek an appropriation in that amount when the General Assembly reconvenes next January, and then finish the job.”

Contractors for the EPA began work Monday morning after the threat of Hurricane Dorian passed.

Site owner, Chandler Lloyd, who has been unable to work on his property since the EPA took control, said he’s done nothing wrong.

“I’ve been portrayed as the biggest environmental villain there is," Lloyd said, in an interview Monday. "And it’s like they continually look, like ‘We are going to find something. We’re going to find something. We’re going to find something,' and they haven’t found anything because I’m not going to jeopardize what I do for a living.”

Also, back to work Monday were air quality sensors, which at one point, detected a low level of hydrogen cyanide - a potentially deadly gas. The detection forced the evacuation of nearby residents. Although it’s been weeks since any of that was detected, those who were evacuated have said they’ve been unable to return home.

When asked about it, EPA officials said they are concerned about the heavy truck traffic in the area, and putting residents and children at risk.

“I feel very very bad about the fire and the smoke here,” Lloyd said. “When we were handling, there was smoke, but we got our smoke out right away; never to the point of what we got today.”

He added that if his crews had been able to continue to fight the fire alongside the EPA, things would be under control by now.

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