Cayce, SC, July 14, 2010 … Laboratory testing has determined that a tarry black substance discovered recently in the Congaree River bed just south of the Gervais Street Bridge is coal tar, likely created during the production of manufactured gas in the early part of the last century. At least two manufactured gas plants operated in the vicinity during the early 1900s, including one that belonged to a corporate predecessor to South Carolina Electric & Gas Company. Although it may never be determined with certainty where the coal tar originated, SCE&G President Kevin Marsh said his company is committed to ensuring that the deposit is fully remediated.
“It’s simply the right thing to do,” said Marsh. “If it’s determined later that other companies have some responsibility in this matter, we’ll address that then. What’s important now is to focus our efforts on a remedy for the situation at hand.”
Marsh said SCE&G environmental experts will work closely with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control to identify the specific areas of the river bed where coal tar has been found, to develop a comprehensive remediation plan for DHEC review, and to carry out that plan as soon as the company has DHEC’s approval to move forward.
“Although manufactured gas production in Columbia occurred between 55 and 100 years ago, we’ve just learned about this situation,” said Marsh. “It’s important to move as quickly as we can to address the issue, but we also want to make sure that we do things the right way. We want to make sure that natural resources are protected and that the folks who may be affected by the work or who may just be concerned about this – local residents, area businesses, recreational river users, and others – know and understand what we’re doing every step of the way.”
Marsh said the presence of the tarry substance in the river bed was first brought to SCE&G’s attention in late June, when DHEC approached the company to determine whether it might have come from environmental clean-up work SCE&G has been carrying out recently at the site of a former manufactured gas plant adjacent to Huger St. That plant was built in 1906 by Broad River Power Company, a corporate predecessor to SCE&G; it closed in the mid-1950s and was eventually dismantled. A bus maintenance facility was constructed on the site in the 1970s. SCE&G has been conducting a voluntary remediation of the site for the past several months and expects to complete that project by the end of September.
While it has been confirmed that the tar in the river bed did not result from SCE&G’s current remediation efforts on Huger St. and is not the result of any recent or ongoing release, it is consistent with the coal tar created by the manufactured gas plants that operated throughout Columbia from the late 1800s until the 1950s.
A press release from DHEC is available on their Web site.
South Carolina Electric & Gas Company is a regulated public utility that provides natural gas service to approximately 313,000 customers throughout South Carolina. The company also is engaged in the generation, transmission, distribution and sale of electricity to approximately 659,000 customers throughout the state. More information about SCE&G is available on the company’s web site at www.sceg.com.