Black substance in river identified as coal tar

COLUMBIA (WACH) -- Environmental officials have identified a tar-like substance found in the Congaree River last month and SCE&G has volunteered to coordinate a clean-up.

Earlier this summer in a story seen First On Fox, a swimmer near the Gervais Street Bridge found a sticky, black substance and wanted answers.

"We were not really sure what we were dealing with," says DHEC spokesman Adam Myrick, "but we since have determined it's coal tar."

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control has now identified the material as coal tar possibly released from manufactured gas plants operating near the river in the early 1900's.

"The material in the river is actually a legacy issue," says SCE&G Environmental Manager Tom Effinger. "It has been there for probably 60 to 100 years."

DHEC says they can't be certain the coal tar came from the plants operated by SCE&G's corporate owners. However, the utility company has stepped up and said they will work with DHEC to create a plan, and follow through with the clean-up efforts.

It TMs simply the right thing to do, explains SCE&G President Kevin Marsh. If it TMs determined later that other companies have some responsibility in this matter, we TMll address that then. What TMs important now is to focus our efforts on a remedy for the situation at hand.

Even though the problem has likely been around for several decades, SCE&G says they want to act quickly to protect natural resources and restore the river.

Officials say there is no proof that a recent environmental clean-up being performed by SCE&G at a former manufactured gas plant resulted in the substance ending up in the river.

Related Stories:

Swimmers urged to avoid river due to tar-like substance - Friday, June 25, 2010DHEC officials say they've taken additional samples and will be posting signs urging people not to swim at the old boat launch near the Gervais Street Bridge. DHEC investigates black sticky substance in Congaree - Wednesday, June 23, 2010Swimmers report finding a black sticky substance on their hands, knees and feet after emerging from the Congaree River. Swimmers find black sticky substance in river - Tuesday, June 22, 2010Swimmers taking a dip in a section of the Congaree River Tuesday came out of the water not only wet, but what appears to be tar stuck to parts of their body.