Environmental agency says putting out fire chief goal in SC

August 11, 2019 GMT

RIDGELAND, S.C. (AP) — The leader of South Carolina’s health and environmental agency says putting out a trash fire that has been smoldering for months is the department’s top priority.

The fire at a recycling company in Jasper County started in early June with hazardous levels of smoke particles and a voluntary evacuation of a neighborhood nearby happening earlier this month.

Department of Health and Environmental Control Director Rick Toomey said at an agency board meeting Thursday the department hired an outside company to put out the fire at Able Contracting Inc.

Toomey also said the agency can’t wait for delayed Environmental Protection Agency testing of water and air samples near the fire and is paying a private firm to see if there are more hazards than just smoke, according to The Island Packet of Hilton Head .


“The EPA was supposed to give us information Tuesday night and (Wednesday) afternoon on the two samples that they were testing,” Toomey told the board at Thursday’s meeting.

Who pays to put out the fire and clean up after depends on those tests. If there aren’t any hazardous materials beyond the smoke created by the fire, the state has to pay, while if other hazardous materials, like asbestos, are found in the air and water, the federal government will pay, Toomey said.

The private crews started their efforts to put out the fire Friday. Health officials say they are concerned about Okatie Elementary School less than a mile away and they will put up an air quality meter before classes start back Aug. 19.

Agency officials said they will consider fines against Able Contracting, but their chief goal for now is to put out the fire.


Information from: The Island Packet,