Hearing for plan to remove coal tar from Congaree River is April 2

Site of the coal tar

South Carolina Electric and Gas presented a plan to remove about 70 percent of the coal tar that is on the bottom of the Congaree River. The concentration of the tar is a stone’s throw from the Gervais Street Bridge.

Under a new plan, the coal tar would be taken out of the river where human contact has the best chance of occurring. A public meeting is scheduled for April 2, to review the new plan. It’s at 6:30 p.m. at EdVenture Children’s Museum, Canal Room, 211 Gervais Street, Columbia, SC 29201.

Click here for info on river clean-up plan

Bill Stangler, Congaree Riverkeeper, said the plan is positive.

“It’s a move in the right direction,” said Stangler, but the process will be complex. The hearing phase, to get public feedback, and permitting will take a while. “I’d hate to put a date on when it will happen,” said Stangler.

SCE&G and the Department of Health and Environmental Control came up with an $18 million plan in early 2015 to remove the coal tar, using coffer dams. But SCE&G abandoned that idea citing the October 2015 flood as a reason damning the river, risking even more flooding, was not an option. SCE&G then proposed leaving the coal tar in the river, and covering it with stones and fabric. That idea was not received well by river advocates.

Mike Dawson is executive director of The River Alliance. He said removing the coal tar is the popular solution.

“All of us agree. We want it gone,” said Dawson.

He said removing the coal tar will allow for more access to the river, and development, between the Gervais and Blossom Street bridges.

The new plan also includes the building of temporary dams on the east bank (Columbia side) so the crews can get to the coal tar, and take it out.

The coal tar was discovered in 2010, when a man in the river noticed an odd smell and encountered the substance that seemed foreign in nature.

The coal tar was deposited in the river by a streetlight oil processor, behind the present-day S.C. State Museum, that was a predecessor to SCE&G. That plant, on Huger Street, leaked a byprocduct into a ditch that flowed to the river. It operated from the early part of the 1900s until the 1950s.

Categories: Columbia, Richland County