September 19, 2014

Anderson man sentenced for releasing asbestos while demolishing mill

An Anderson man was sentenced to more than three years in prison after prosecutors say he continued to demolish an old mill despite knowing the building contained hazardous levels of asbestos.

37-year-old Scott Farmer was sentenced Tuesday to 41 months in prison and three years supervised release after earlier pleading guilty to knowing endangerment by release of asbestos.

Prosecutors said Farmer and his employees were working on demolished portions of Haynsworth Mill in Anderson between November 2012 and April 2013 in order to sell scrap metal from the building. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental said it repeatedly warned Farmer to stop work on the building because of the asbestos, which have been linked to cancer. However, investigators said Farmer continued to do the work without setting up safeguards for his employees or customers who bought the scrap metal.

In March 2013, DHEC issued an emergency order against Farmer to cease all activities on the site due to the hazardous levels of asbestos. But inspectors said they caught Farmer doing more demolition work on the site a month later.

“Exposure to asbestos can cause serious health problems and in some cases may prove fatal,” Maureen O’Mara, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in South Carolina, said in a statement. “The defendant’s actions threatened not only the environment but the safety of his workers and the surrounding community.”

The former cotton mill was built in 1948 and operated in the heart of Anderson until its closure in 1996, according to research by the Greenville Textile Heritage Society.


Corps of Engineers going after tree-clearing along Lake Hartwell

Lake Hartwell (SCDNR)

Lake Hartwell (SCDNR)

Some property owners who live along Lake Hartwell have been told they could lose the ability to keep docks on the property if they don’t stop illegally clearing brush and trees on the shore.

The Army Corps of Engineers maintains the large lake along South Carolina’s northwest border with Georgia and owns a thin “collar” of land that rings the water’s edge. The public land goes about 50-100 feet inland from the shoreline. Lakefront property must obtain a permit before clearing brush inside that collar.

But Corps spokesman Billy Birdwell said there has been an “unprecedented” increase this summer of landowners either going beyond the scope of their permit or removing brush and trees without approval.

“They wouldn’t think about going over to their neighbor on the left or the right and cutting down tree or brush on their property,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “But they think nothing about going onto public property that they do not own and doing the same thing.”

He said the natural growth along the lake is there for several reasons: it helps keep runoff from flowing freely into the water, can slow erosion, and creates a natural habitat for animals.

“We have the trees and brush going there for a reason,” he said.

Birdwell said property owners who did not realize their mistake usually agree to voluntary compliance, meaning they must allow the brush to grow back. However, repeat or particular severe offenders risk having their permits revoked, including a separate permit that allows them to keep a boat dock along the lake. They could also face stiff fines.

Birdwell said the Corps has only revoked six permits in the 50 years the agency has maintained the lake. but adds up to seven landowners are currently under investigation and could lose the permits this summer. A majority are on the South Carolina side, which is more developed than Georgia’s end of the lake.

Lake Hartwell has the largest shoreline management program of any Corps of Engineers’ lake in the nation. Fifty percent of its shoreline is zoned for limited private development, such as a boat dock or access walkway.

Crews remove “cobwebs” growing in pool with spent nuclear fuel at SRS

Image provided by SRNS shows the spent fuel racks before and after vacuuming

Image provided by SRNS shows the spent fuel racks before and after vacuuming

Workers at the Savannah River Site say they have now removed a mysterious “cobweb-like” bacteria whose appearance has perplexed researchers at the former nuclear weapons complex since its discovery three years ago.

In 2011, employees working at the site near Aiken were surprised to find the white, string-like growth in a large pool at the L Disassembly Basin which is used to store spent nuclear fuel assemblies.

Scientists at both facilities determined that the “cobwebs” were made up of a broad variety of bacteria along with a few other types of microbes that were able to survive despite the radiation and lack of carbon in the pools. Researchers say they have spent the past two years monitoring the “cobwebs” for growth patterns and changes.

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Sullivan’s, Isle of Palms residents asked to conserve water after leak

Charleston WaterResidents on the Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island are being asked to conserve their water after a water main connecting to the barrier islands broke beneath Charleston Harbor.

Officials with the Charleston Water and Sewer Commission say the break was discovered Wednesday night in a 20-inch main that crosses the harbor from James Island. The main line provides drinking water for Sullivan’s Island and supplements water supplies on the Isle of Palms, two islands immediately northeast of Charleston

“We have enough water to supply both islands, but to be on the safe side, we’re asking residents to be mindful of how much water they’re using until Charleston Water System completes its repairs,” General Manager of the Isle of Palms Water and Sewer Commission Kristen Champagne said in a statement Thursday.

Residents, especially on Sullivan’s Island, are being asked to restrict any outdoor watering until repairs are made. Commission officials said they do not know at this time how long the pipe repair will take.

The commission is using a reverse osmosis plant and a standby well to keep residents of supplied with water.

“This is a temporary situation and our water supply should be back to normal as soon as Charleston Water System completes the repair,” Sullivan’s Island Town Administrator Andy Benke said in a statement.


Governor signs bill making solar energy more accessible in SC


Haley signed the bill underneath a solar panel array at a Columbia outfitter Wednesday

Haley signed the bill underneath a solar panel array at a Columbia outfitting store Wednesday

Gov. Nikki Haley held a ceremonial signing Wednesday for a new law that loosens restrictions on solar energy in South Carolina.

The Distributed Energy Resource Program Act will let third-party companies lease solar panels to customers without being regulated as a public utility. The leasing practice is meant to help homeowners afford the relatively expensive panels.

While the governor officially signed the bill into law back in June, Wednesday’s ceremony at a Columbia outfitter was a celebration for conservation and renewable energy groups. Those groups have long criticized state laws they said made South Carolina one of the most difficult states for installing solar panels on homes and businesses.

Haley said South Carolina trails neighboring states for solar energy usage.  “(Georgia and North Carolina) have been doing pretty well when it comes to solar energy and they don’t have any more sun than we do. The goal is to never be satsified, but what are we doing to move the ball forward?”

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