South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

What Is Happening with the Pinewood Site?
Posted: March 1, 2017

A 15-year battle halted the 'stock-piling', but Pinewood is still loaded and looming ominously over Lake Marion. Has the state committed to ensuring the long-term stability of the landfill? It is at best unnerving to know that after his "noisy resignation" in 2014, the former Trust Administrator of the mega hazardous waste landfill, the late Bill Stephens, was still sounding the alarm and whistleblowing with state and federal agencies until his passing in March of 2017.

Reaching out to state legislators and officers prompted a site visit and a subcommittee hearing in 2015. The site visit was attended by, among others, then Lieutenant Governor McMaster and DHEC Administrator Catherine Templeton, currently competing in the Republican primary for the Governor election in 2018.

In January 2016, the Interim Administrator (appointed by DHEC as the new Trust Administrator in June of the same year) published a draft Capital Improvement Projects Request that followed up on many of the concerns raised since before the resignation of the former Administrator (you can read more about it here), reassuring the various stakeholders involved in the process. Not much else has happened since, that we know of, which is probably one of the reasons that prompted Bill Stephens to start talking with federal agencies and prosecutors in the last year of his life.

His latest efforts was a voluminous Notification of Imminent and Substantial Endangerment to Human Health and the Environment. His letter to US EPA Administrator V. Anne Heard dated February 18, 2017 is linked below, along with one of its many attachments, the Final Report to the Citizens of South Carolina by Mr. Stephens as Trustee of the Pinewood Site Custodial Trust, dated September 18, 2014.

As Mr. Stephens himself acknowledges, the new Administrator and the various experts and contractors involved in the management of the site have been doing a good job in very challenging circumstances. What is still amiss is responsible political and administrative leadership to make it crystal clear that Pinewood is not nor will ever become a substantial endangerment for over a million of South Carolinians and that similar problems are not and will not be replicated at other critical sites and on other vital environmental issues. Specifically on the Pinewood site, improved communications by DHEC would be a first important step (its website is not exactly up to speed with the critical nature of the issue). Moreover, our elected representatives should continue, as Senators McElveen and Johnson have, to demand answers and should keep the citizens informed about current conditions and precautions being taken, including financial commitments, to ensure the stabilization of the site for the long term.

Download available Endangerment Notice 2017

Download available Final Report Kestrel 2014