Congaree coal tar cleanup plan decided

DHEC says the water of the river is safe for recreational use.

COLUMBIA (WACH) -- It may have closed in 1950, but the effects of the old Huger Street manufactured gas plant are still being felt in 2013.

In March, DHEC asked for public input on the removal of a tar-like substance from the Congaree River near the Gervais Street bridge.

The public had until April 22nd to have their say on which of four options was the best in dealing with coal tar found in the river from the plant that was operating from 1906 to 1950.

The agency has chosen to get rid of it.

"We got several public comments and they were all overwhelmingly in favor of our alternative number four, which was to completely remove the tar-like substance and any sediment that it affected and dispose of it elsewhere," said Lindsey Evans of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

SCE&G had previously entered into a voluntary cleanup contract with DHEC in August of 2002 to assess the area at the site and the coal tar was found in June of 2010.

Robert Yanity of SCE&G said, "We take a strong stance on the environment and limiting our impact on it. When we first found out that there was coal tar and we were one of the potential reasons for it, one of our predecesor companies, even though there were several manufactured gas plants way back when, we took it upon ourselves to take responsibility and clean it up."

That alternative will cost the company over $18.5 million to complete and about three years of disruption to part of the Columbia side of the Congaree River.

DHEC says the water of the river is safe for recreational use. The only risk is for long-term, direct skin exposure to the substance.

"We want to make sure it's done right so it may take a couple of years but we're going to make sure that everything that's in there that shouldn't be there get's taken out," said Yanity.

With this plan you will not see any changes to the river until the spring of 2014. That's when about 1,600 feet of the Columbia side of the river will become inaccessible.