- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 27, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The oldest part of a Sumter County toxic waste landfill that is at the most risk because of its construction is also the part closest to a lake that provides water to thousands of people.

Still, a consultant who studied the Pinewood landfill testified Wednesday before a Senate subcommittee that the site is safe for now and appears to have adequate or better protections in place.

“The current conditions of the landfill do not represent a risk to human health,” said David Hagen, vice president of Haley & Aldrich consulting company.

The company was paid $50,000 by the Department of Health and Environmental Control to study the landfill.

The Senate subcommittee is trying to figure out how much money is needed to make sure the dump closed 15 years ago doesn’t pollute nearby Lake Marion or other areas.

The part of the landfill closest to the lake was also the part constructed first and has liners that are glued together instead of welded as is the practice now.

Sen. Kevin Johnson said he wants to see that the state can spend money on how to prevent a massive expenditure later to prevent or clean up a disaster.

The 279-acre site contains heavy metals, solvents and cancer-causing PCBs and parts are within 1,000 feet of Lake Marion. Current regulations would never allow a similar landfill to be built so close to a body of water.

The landfill’s biggest pollution problem is water contaminated by waste that leaches in through places where wells are drilled into the protective cover. But Hagen said that is being handled properly. The water also isn’t moving fast, giving scientists plenty of time to react if it starts to move toward the edges of the landfill.

“The groundwater doesn’t move that fast. So you’ll have time to put in the features,” Hagen said.

The subcommittee will continue to meet and several members want to hear from Bill Stephens, the former manager of the landfill, who told The State newspaper last year that the dump needs $20 million of improvements as soon as possible to prevent a disaster.

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