South Carolina environmental groups have mobilized to push the Department of Health and Environmental Control to stop a New Jersey company from dumping tons of radioactive dirt into a Lee County mega-landfill.
300 railroad cars full of radioactive dirt from an industrial cleanup site in New Jersey are slated to be dumped in the huge landfill near Interstate 20, known locally as “Trash Mountain.” DHEC granted approval for the disposal last year, then said months later that the dirt is too radioactive to dump in South Carolina.
But with DHEC becoming more “business-friendly” (read: environmentally unfriendly), the agency changed its mind again and said the radioactive dirt could be dumped in South Carolina if extra precautions are taken and the dump’s permit is modified to include radioactive materials.
“South Carolina’s backyards should be for gardens and swing sets, not the radioactive mess made by others,” commented Lara Winburn of the state’s League of Conservation Voters. The environmental group is circulating a petition calling for Gov. Haley and DHEC Director Catherine Templeton to block the radioactive dirt from being dumped in the Palmetto State.
“When you consider that household chemicals like pesticides and solvents are banned from these landfills, even in small quantities, how could DHEC allow any kind of nuclear dirt under any circumstance?” the petition asks.
“Everyone — our governor and citizens alike — should shout, WIMBY: ‘Why in My Back Yard?’” state Sen. Phil Leventis (D-Sumter) wrote in an editorial published by The State over the weekend:
Why for decades has South Carolina’s environment been right for out-of-state waste? It’s not because our meteorological, geographical or geological environment is favorable.
The answers are clear. It’s that our political environment has been favorable … and may still be. It’s that private companies want to make huge profits by raping our natural resources. It’s that the Department of Health and Environmental Control has been told that South Carolina should be the most business-friendly state in the nation.
This is not simply a problem with our laws. Although our laws leave much to be desired, governors have contributed immensely to the pro-waste culture that has allowed out-of-state waste companies to have their way with our state for decades: The law firm of a former governor represents major waste interests before S.C. regulators, opening doors in a way most law firms couldn’t. A sitting governor states that there is a crisis in nuclear-waste disposal requiring us to abandon years of work on a compact, resulting in more waste for years past the statutory cut-off. The list goes on.
South Carolina’s interests and business’ interests are not always the same, and statements by governors carry heavy symbolic importance, signaling to the nation whether South Carolina will continue to be its pay toilet or not.
But with the governor saying she intends to pressure DHEC “to accommodate economic interests more than it has in the past,” it appears that signal has already been sent.