The operator of an unpopular sewage dump near Pelion will set aside $43,500 to investigate groundwater pollution and monitor the 287-acre site for signs of further contamination, according to an agreement with state regulators.
C.E. Taylor Pumping Inc. struck the deal with the state’s environmental department as part of a plan to close the disposal ground early next month. Regulators announced the deal at a public meeting in November, but the amount Taylor would pay had not been established until the agreement was signed Dec. 10.
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control won’t require Taylor to clean up nitrate-poisoned groundwater beneath the dump but wants the company to keep watch on pollution to see if it spreads. DHEC has listed the 23-year-old Taylor site on its inventory of places in South Carolina with polluted groundwater.
If the nitrate contamination gets worse, a cleanup could be required at a future date, the agency says. The $43,500 will ensure that monitoring wells are installed and are checked over the next 30 years to see if the pollution worsens, according to DHEC.
Former state Sierra Club official Samantha Siegel, who worked with Pelion residents on problems they had with the disposal ground, questioned whether the amount being set aside is enough to assure monitoring work will occur.
The issue is of concern in the Pelion area because many people depend on wells for drinking water. Nitrate can be lethal to babies who drink contaminated water.
“It seems like a low number,” Siegel said. “It seems like it would cost more to monitor and have to put in additional wells, pay employees and all that. I don’t think $43,000 will get very far.”
Mark Plowden, a DHEC spokesman, said the amount is adequate and based on research by the agency.
The Taylor disposal site, which spreads treated human waste on the ground, has taken in more sewage than any other site of its kind in South Carolina.
Despite concerns about the amount Taylor will pay, Siegel said it’s encouraging that the Pelion dump is closing. Company owner Frank Taylor said last month that he would shut down the site after the agency threatened to deny a permit to continue discharging sewage.
According to the agreement with DHEC, the Taylor company must stop dumping sewage by the end of December and close the site altogether by Jan. 8.
Taylor and DHEC “are finally doing what is in the best interests of the residents of Pelion,” Siegel said. “These are nice, down-to-earth people – way more patient than they should have been.”
Frank Taylor, who maintains he has run a clean operation, declined comment when contacted by The State. He and his lawyers contend the pollution is coming from farms in the area that use fertilizers containing nitrate.
C.E. Taylor has been at odds with neighbors for parts of the past 23 years because of odors and groundwater contamination at the site. The disposal ground takes human waste from portable toilets and septic tanks, as well as restaurant grease, and spreads it on the ground after treating the waste. The concept is to fertilize crops, but DHEC records show Taylor has had disputes with the agency over the proper amount of crop cover.
Putting too much sewage on crops, or on bare ground, can pollute groundwater with nitrate. Despite internal discussions about the site’s operating practices, DHEC has never fined C.E. Taylor.
The agency assured neighbors in 1989 the Taylor dump would not hurt the environment, but the agency later found nitrate pollution in groundwater beneath the Taylor property. Nitrate is polluting some wells used by private homes for drinking water, although DHEC has not blamed Taylor for the private well contamination.
According to the December agreement, Taylor will set aside $30,000 to make sure five new monitoring wells are installed and tested for nitrate pollution. That must be used in the coming months. Taylor also must put up another $13,500 to make sure the site is monitored over the next 30 years.