Coal tar that is coating the bottom of the Congaree River in downtown Columbia will be the subject of a public meeting Feb. 13.
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control will hold the meeting in the EdVenture Children’s Museum at 6:30 p.m. A notice sent to the Congaree Riverkeeper says the meeting will update the community on what DHEC is doing about the coal tar, which is on the river bottom between the Gervais and Blossom street bridges.
SCE&G, which is liable for the pollution, has abandoned plans to excavate and remove the tainted coal tar. The company originally planned to dam part of the river and dig out the tar. But at the urging of DHEC, the company now proposes to leave tons of the gooey substance on the river bottom. The change in plans could save the power company $11 million, records show.
SCE&G has asked regulators to approve a fast-track permit. DHEC and the power company have been criticized for negotiating the new cleanup plan without public notice.
The new plan is to cover some of the riverbed with fabric and stones in an attempt to hold the tar in place. The material drained into the river from an old gas plant. The tar may have been on the river bottom for more than 50 years. Its existence was verified in 2010 after a kayaker stepped in the black muck and reported it to DHEC.
For more information, contact Lucas Berresford at 803-898-0747 or Gary Stewart at 803-898-0778.