SC Hazardous Waste Contingency Fund
South Carolina’s Hazardous Waste Contingency Fund (Fund) was created in 1980 when the General Assembly amended the South Carolina Hazardous Waste Management Act. The amendment authorized DHEC to use monies in this fund to oversee responsible party cleanup of contaminated sites, cleanup those sites where responsible parties are unavailable and seek cost recovery where possible, implement the Brownfields/Voluntary Cleanup Program, and administer the Waste Minimization and Reduction Program. Monies from this fund are also used to oversee the emergency response contract for the state, for the 10 percent cost share (match) against federal dollars spent by the EPA for remedial action at sites in South Carolina, and to secure, sample and properly dispose of hazardous wastes where necessary.
Initially, revenues of approximately $2 million annually came from a fee levied on hazardous waste disposed at the Safety-Kleen/Laidlaw facility in Pinewood. In June 2000, Safety-Kleen, Inc. filed for bankruptcy in South Carolina. The landfill stopped receiving waste a short time later, ending all new revenue into the Fund.
During the early 2000s, establishing a continued funding source for the Contingency Fund was a budget priority for the Agency. In 2006, Budget Proviso 9.45 was passed allowing the Fund to retain the interest on the Fund balance. This resulted in adding interest income to the Fund of $576,576.23 for fiscal year 2007. In 2007, Budget Proviso 9.54 passed and authorized DHEC to assess an annual fee on hazardous waste generators and to levy a per ton fee on hazardous waste generated, to be deposited into the Contingency Fund for the uses outlined above. Specifically, large quantity generators, as determined by R.61-79.262 South Carolina Hazardous Waste Regulations, producing greater than 100 tons of hazardous waste per year are assessed an annual base fee of $1,000 per facility and a $1.50 per ton fee for all hazardous waste the company generates. Large quantity generators producing 100 tons or less of hazardous waste are assessed an annual fee of $1,000. Small quantity generators are assessed an annual fee of $500. Fees collected under this provision shall not exceed an annual cap of $15,000 per generator. Companies subject to fees required by Section 44-56-170(F) (1) of the 1976 Code are exempt from fees established by this provision. Since the passing of these two provisos, annual collections have been approximately $1.5 million.
To more thoroughly understand the ongoing need for the Contingency fund, the following workload description is offered. More than 1000 properties in South Carolina have been identified as having, or perceived to have, hazardous substance contamination. In light of historical revenue, staff works on the assessment and cleanup of over 100 sites a year. Work is not always continuous, and a site may require several years of attention before work is completed. The following are examples of sites addressed and the amount of Fund money that has been spent at these sites:
- Horton Sales Development Corporation – Piedmont Highway Site – This Site is the former location of a facility that cleaned and reconditioned intermediate bulk containers (“IBCs” or “totes”). Thousands of IBCs containing various amounts of unknown industrial wastes were stacked haphazardly at the Site. The Department responded and removed approximately 9500 IBCs. Over 1 million gallons of liquid and 725 tons of solids and sludge were transported offsite for disposal as non hazardous waste. Approximately 85,000 gallons were treated at hazardous waste disposal facilities. The Fund allowed the Department to perform an emergency removal action to remove the IBCs and prevent accidental onsite exposures and offsite migration of contaminants in the adjacent creek. Cost to date: approximately $4.3 million.
- Hollis Road Site – A groundwater plume polluted at least 42 business and private drinking water wells with trichloroethene contamination in Lexington County. The Department conducted extensive sampling and approximately 300 businesses and residences were provided access to public water using fund monies. The project cost to date is approximately $3.1 million, and $2.75 million has been recovered from the responsible parties.
- Stoller Chemical Company Site – A former fertilizer manufacturing company located in Charleston County had extensive sediment, soil and groundwater contamination. The pollution impacted Caw-Caw Swamp, which was cleaned up. The availability of the Hazardous Waste Contingency Fund allowed DHEC to address Caw-Caw Swamp and other urgent site cleanup issues while concurrently taking complex legal actions to pursue responsible parties for cost recovery. The project cost to date is around $20 million, with approximately 95 percent of those costs being recovered from the responsible parties.
Over the last few years, DHEC also mobilized and responded after emergency orders were issued to close three facilities: Tin Products – Lexington County, Cardinal Chemical – Richland County, and Starmet – Barnwell County. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted removal actions at each of these facilities; however, these actions were limited to surface cleanup. Long-term cleanup of the contaminated groundwater is DHEC’s responsibility. The S.C. Hazardous Waste Management Act requires that DHEC pursue responsible parties to recover costs associated with the investigation and cleanup. DHEC often finds that the responsible parties are bankrupt. In these cases, the fund cannot recover its costs.
DHEC consistently attempts to direct the responsible party to assess and/or cleanup contamination where appropriate. Nonetheless, each site represents a potential liability to the fund if the responsible party (or parties) is unknown, unwilling or unable to conduct the necessary activities. In light of this future potential, and prior fund expenditures to date, the known number of contaminated sites represents a potential liability in excess of $60 million.