By Matt Tomsic
Published Sept. 18, 2012
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control gave special treatment to Santee Cooper by allowing the public utility to decide whether DHEC needed to issue a new water permit for coal ash lagoons, a lawsuit filed today argues.
Santee Cooper stores 650,000 tons of coal ash in lagoons of the Waccamaw River, according to a news release from the lawsuit’s plaintiffs. The lawsuit argues the lagoons are polluting the Waccamaw River with arsenic, mercury and copper.
It also argues DHEC issued its Clean Water Act permit to Santee Cooper for the lagoons in 2002, and the permit expired in 2006.
DHEC hasn’t issued a new permit since then.
“Santee Cooper and DHEC have communicated about the permit, and DHEC has indicated to Santee Cooper that it would issue the permit if Santee Cooper wanted it to,” according to the release. “Santee Cooper has stated: ‘We don’t want to push the permitting.’”
Mollie Gore, a spokesperson with Santee Cooper, said the utility hasn’t seen a copy of the lawsuit yet.
“Regarding the permit, Santee Cooper filed for a permit renewal in a timely manner and since the permit expired, we have continued to operate under its terms while DHEC considers our renewal application,” Gore said. “ We are in full compliance with that permit. We have not asked DHEC to stall the process.”
Officials with DHEC were unavailable for comment.