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SCE&G plan caps "toxic"tar in Congaree River, doesn't remove it

COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) - On Monday night, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control hosted a public input meeting in Columbia to talk about how to contain coal tar in the Congaree River.

Dozens of concerned people attended, frustrated with what they call a temporary fix and a lack of clarity about public health and environmental impacts.

According to DHEC, SCE&G is responsible for cleaning up the tar that exists on a large part of the river.

DHEC officials say attempts to dam up the river to dry the areas affected and remove them proved impossible.

"Our goal would be to have as little impact to the public as possible. Right now it's just conceptual as to how it would work," said DHEC spokesman Robert Yanity. "Once we decide that's the most preferred option, it'll be up to them [SCE&G] to come up with a plan with what that looks like, what the encapsulation method is."

Officials say the tar came from a coal plant built in the early 1900s. That plant shut down more than 50 years ago, but the waste products were still left behind. The tar was discovered in 2010.

The Congaree Riverkeeper says it's "toxic" and would burn someone's skin if they touched it.

SCE&G has requested permits from the Army Corps of Engineers to cap off the areas so that no one will be exposed for the time being.

"We wanted to remove the coal tar from the river and we really attempted to do that we tried to get permits and it just didn't happen that way," said SCE&G spokesperson Ginny Jones. "The capping is an option potentially so we're hoping we can understand the needs of the people."

DHEC will host more public input sessions and say they welcome any alternative plans for getting rid of the tar.

To learn more, click here.

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