from the Lake Hartwell Association: For a long time, Upstate Forever, thePickens Soil and Water Conservation District (PSWCD) and the Lake Hartwell Association (LHA) have expressed grave concerns about the inadequate dredging operation being conducted by Schlumberger above the Woodside I dam. (See UU 112 and previous issues for more information about this project and the issues involved). It is clear that this operation, as now being carried out, will result in excessive amounts of sediment remaining in and along the Twelve Mile River channel. This will make it impossible to restore the natural condition of the river gorge, which is one of the overriding objectives of the U.S. District Court’s Consent Decree that governs the project.
We now have conclusive proof that these sediments are highly contaminated with PCBs. Upstate Forever paid for the collection and analysis of ten samples of the floodplain above the Woodside I dam in February of this year to determine whether PCB contamination exists. The results show that five of the ten samples have levels of PCBs ranging from 9,670 to 54,000 parts per billion, far above the action level of 1,000 parts per billion. In fact, the 54,000 sampling result is the highest level of PCB contamination ever recorded above the Woodside II dam.
The samples were taken before the Woodside II dam was removed and just as our experts predicted, after removal of this dam and as the river began to reestablish itself, much of this unnatural floodplain sloughed off into the channel. In fact, the portion of the floodplain where the samples were taken no longer exists. The sediment and the PCBs have been mobilized and have moved downstream.
There is now every reason to believe that other floodplain sediments above the Woodside II dam contain excessive levels of PCBs. If Schlumberger is allowed to complete its limited dredging operation and to remove the Woodside II dam, it is highly likely that massive amounts of PCB-contaminated sediments will move downstream and settle out in Lake Hartwell. Instead of clean sediments covering the contaminated ones already in the lake, which is the basic goal of the remedy selected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more layers of contaminated sediments will be deposited in the lake.
On March 30, Upstate Forever, PCSWD and LHA requested the U.S. District Court to hold a hearing to consider this new evidence and to require Schlumberger to remove all of the floodplain sediments before the Woodside II dam is taken down. The Court declined to hold a hearing and stated that any change in the scope of the project would have to be made by the natural resource trustees (the federal and state agencies supervising the work). The Court expressed its appreciation for our recommendations and encouraged us to remain actively involved in the project. Upstate Forever and its partners will soon be submitting an official request to the trustees and EPA for a change in the scope of the dredging work.
Meanwhile, the results of the sampling of the sediments above the Easley-Central dam should be available by the end of this month. Limited sampling has already shown substantial PCB contamination of the floodplain sediments above this dam. A reasonable and comprehensive way to address the PCB contamination in the entire stretch between the Woodside II dam and above the Easley-Central dam would be to remove the latter, allow the contaminated sediments to move downstream and be trapped behind the Woodside II dam, dredge and remove all of the sediments, and then remove the Woodside II dam. This approach would truly restore both the gorge and the natural condition of the entire river system, remove the contaminated sediments (at least from this long stretch), and allow the remedy to be achieved.