Where’s the Best Place To Put Coal Ash?

By: Ron Sobczak, Sierra Club Upstate March 2016 Bulletin

You may have read about the proposed coal ash landfill in Pickens. Coal ash is the generic term referring to several very distinct materials produced when we combust coal to produce electricity. We need places to safely store the huge amounts of coal ash generated from coal power plants. The proposed landfill in Pickens was originally developed as a Class 2 landfill to store construction and demolition (C&D) waste and other nonhazardous waste. Coal ash which contains toxic heavy metals such as lead and arsenic needs to be stored in a Class 3 landfill following Coal Ash Rules, with protection for groundwater, limitations on dust, leachate management, a synthetic liner and a public website posting information about the site.

MRR Pickens, owner of the Pickens landfill site, sought permission to store coal ash in its landfill which was just designed for C&D. MRR Pickens brought a $25 million lawsuit against the Pickens County Planning Commission who revoked approval when they learned what MRR Pickens actually planned to do with the site. Attorney Gary Poliakoff, member and longtime supporter of the Bartram Group, is representing the Pickens County Planning Commission.

Meanwhile the SC Sierra Club is working with the SC House and Senate to pass a bill that will require that coal ash be stored in a Class 3 landfill with all the necessary protections. Protecting the environment requires diligence and commitment. Fortunately, in SC we have environmental heroes like Gary Poliakoff. But we also need you to contact your legislator to get this environmental protection into law.