Coal tar to be covered and remain in the Congaree River


Federal authorities have approved a plan to allow S.C. Electric and Gas to leave a patch of coal tar in the Congaree River.

The  patch of coal tar can remain in the bottom of the Congaree River after it is covered by S.C. Electric and Gas. The coal tar is between the Gervais Street Bridge in West Columbia, and the Blossom Street Bridge in Cayce.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved a permit Oct 18, that allows SCE&G to cover the coal tar with stones and other material to hold it in place.
The coal tar seeped into the river, via ditches, as long as 100 years ago when there was a gaslight fuel station in the Vista area of Columbia, in the area where the S.C. State Museum is now.  That plant closed in the 1950s. The tar slick on the east (or Columbia) side of the river was discovered in 2010.
SCE&G had devised an $18 million  plan to remove the coal tar from the river, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rejected the plan that included the construction of a coffer dam. The coffer dam would have forced water onto the bank on the other west side of the river, with the  risk of erosion and flooding.
SCE&G also released a statement on Monday regarding the approved plan, that reads: 
We’ve worked for about six years to find the best solution to address the material in the Congaree River. [The] Cost has never been a deciding factor, despite what other reports may have suggested.
Even though SCDHEC has determined that the water in this area of the Congaree River is safe for recreational use and that the tar material does not pose a short-term health hazard, our strong preference has always been to remove the material from the river. Unfortunately, there simply is no strategy for removal that is viable from an engineering standpoint and for which we can obtain the necessary permits.
Therefore, SCDHEC has requested that we move forward with an engineered capping system, such as a concrete articulated mat, to create a robust barrier that will prevent the potential migration of the material into any other area of the river. Over time, such a mat will continue to be covered naturally by additional sediment.
We are currently working through the design and permitting process for the capping solution, and we’ll continue to share those details as the project moves forward.

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