Able Contracting Fire Update 08-09-2019

* Friday, August 9, 2019  
This page will be updated regularly as information becomes available. 

DHEC requested assistance from the US EPA to collect air and water samples from around the fire at Able Contracting, LLC in Jasper County.  Under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as Superfund, if a hazardous substance, as defined in the Act, is present along with a risk of exposure to the public, federal resources can be brought in to mitigate the exposure.

Prior to and while EPA was conducting sampling, DHEC sensors were placed in the area to continuously monitor smoke from the fire.  These sensors measure very fine particles consistent with the size of smoke particles.  The sensor data is evaluated as 24-hour averages and compared to the categories developed for EPA’s Air Quality Index (AQI).

On July 24, 2019, DHEC was notified by a representative of Able Contracting that the company was no longer able to keep applying water to the pile.  Within 24 hours, DHEC particulate sensors were measuring levels at night that were unhealthy, according to the EPA’s Air Quality Index, especially for sensitive populations. The smoke was worse during the night and improved during the day.  The nighttime concentrations were high enough to keep the 24-hour average above healthy levels. 

Based on the elevated concentrations of fine particulate matter and authority under the South Carolina Pollution Control Act, on July 31st, DHEC issued an Emergency Order (EO) to Able Contracting ordering the owner to immediately extinguish the fire.

The owner indicated in an August 2, 2019, hearing on the EO that he did not have the resources to put the fire out.

DHEC worked with Jasper County officials to coordinate responses to the ongoing smoke and the impacts to a local community.  The County issued a local emergency declaration and has provided temporary alternative housing for the residents of the neighborhood directly adjacent to the fire.  

While EPA was evaluating whether or not federal resources can be made available under CERCLA to abate, prevent and eliminate exposure to a hazardous substance as defined in their regulation, DHEC has been coordinating with a clean-up contractor to develop a plan to extinguish the fire.

A meeting was held this morning with DHEC, EPA, the DHEC state emergency contractor and Jasper County officials to coordinate next steps.

The DHEC state emergency contractor has been mobilized and is onsite. Work efforts will ramp up over the next several days.

Air quality sensors are currently at the site.  Several additional air quality sensors will be set up in the community, including at Okatie Elementary, as work begins.  These community sensors are being located as a precaution as smoke levels may increase initially during the response.  This sensor data provides citizens with near real time data so they can make informed decisions about outdoor activities.

If you travel or work in the immediate area, please note that there will be increased truck traffic and that additional traffic control will be implemented from time to time.

Stay informed by viewing the DHEC Able Contracting Fire webpage that will be frequently updated.

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