JASPER COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - An enormous debris pile in Jasper County that burned for six months is now clear. And that leaves a lot of questions including who will pay for the expensive cleanup?
Take a look at what the Able Contracting site looked like in June when it caught fire.
The walls could barely contain the massive trash pile. In August, the EPA and state environmental officials in South Carolina took control. At one point, neighbors had to be evacuated after a toxic gas was detected.
Now it looks like this.
A completely different scene. It took six months to remove more than 115,000 tons of debris.
$4.5 million is how much it cost taxpayers to clean up the site.
Now, the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control says it will recover those costs from the owner.
Officials would not elaborate because it involves legal action, but here’s what else they had to say Wednesday during a news conference.
At the pace of 100 dump truck loads, the state paid a contractor to remove the entire smoldering debris pile at Able Contracting site near Ridgeland, S.C.
The job came to an end this week.
“On Monday afternoon, the last truck load of material left the site, and with that the fire has been completely extinguished. The threat to public health has ended, so we’ll be removing the air sensors soon,” said Henry Porter, DHEC’s Chief of Land & Waste Management.
In a phone interview, Henry Porter explained why there shouldn’t be any concerns for health effects.
“We did a pretty significant amount of sampling of the runoff water. We did not see any need to do any sampling of the soil because all of the material was removed from the site,” said Porter.
For years, neighbors and nearby business owners complained about the size and smell of the pile.
Only when it caught fire last year did the state and EPA take forceful actions.
“There were particulate levels that exceeded what would be a safe level for people to breathe,” said Porter.
Porter said the EPA identified acrolein as one of those chemicals, which forced a temporary evacuation for nearby residents.
Here is a visual timeline of the trash pile:
A WTOC investigation showed Able Contracting was allowed to skirt state regulation even after a law change in 2018 required it to have a landfill permit.
The facility was in the process of coming into compliance when the fire started.
“It’s likely that the fire was caused by the heat generated from decomposition and the size of the pile and the weight of the materials bearing down,” said Porter.
You may have wondered what was in that debris pile. DHEC says it’s mostly construction debris. But officials said they did find a few things not allowed, include a propane gas tank and some tires.
Able Contracting’s owner Chandler Loyd did not reply to any requests to comment on Wednesday.