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Cleanup of South Carolina’s ‘Mount Trashmore’ may cost $4.5M

It may cost taxpayers $4.5 million to clean up a blazing, towering pile of garbage known as Mount Trashmore in South Carolina.

Crews have been working to extinguish, clean and remove smoldering trash at the Able Contracting recycling center near Bluffton for over a month, yet the mounds of debris continue to burn and smell.

Environmental Protection Agency coordinator Terry Tanner says about 700 truckloads of construction and demolition debris have been removed, but about 9,000 truckloads remain at the site.

Mount Trashmore has been burning for months, and the EPA has found at least one hazardous substance in the fallout. The EPA plans to remove enough trash to ensure the fire is out, before the state Department of Health and Environmental Control takes over. State officials estimate the total cost to put out the fires and clean up the site at $4.5 million.

The newspaper says local and federal officials have evacuated about two dozen nearby residents, sending them to live in temporary housing, and groundwater tests show some wells have been contaminated.

The recycling center's owner, Chandler Lloyd, told The Post and Courier of Charleston in July that he started taking in construction materials about seven years ago. He says that he feels his neighbors have unfairly complained since then. He declined to comment for the newspaper's newest report.

The state's environmental agency and Lloyd have been talking about the massive debris pile for at least six years.

A 2013 complaint prompted a state environmental official to visit the site and tell Lloyd that state law requires recycling centers to remove or recycle 75% of all materials brought in, according to DHEC records obtained by the newspaper.

Lloyd responded in a letter to the agency that said the facility aimed to recycle at least 85 percent of its materials.

Lloyd's letter also said that he had "dealt with people in authoritative positions in the past and they wanted to show us they're authority, even when they realized they had crossed the line. Enough said ."

Complaints about the site and concerns about environmental pollution stacked up since then, but state environmental officials nearly always noted after subsequent visits that no further action was required.

A 2016 visit changed direction, noting that Lloyd needed more space to store his recyclables. Another inspection that year revealed the site to be contaminated with trash. Lloyd countered that the state couldn't stop him from hauling "my dirt to my property."

Relations continued to sour, even as flames spouted from the property in 2018 and again this summer. Lloyd was ordered to submit a fire suppression plan, but his lawyer ultimately acknowledged that the recycling center couldn't afford to extinguish the flames. Federal and state agencies then stepped in, confirming the long-expressed fears of residents that the cleanup burden would fall on taxpayers.

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