Residents living with the effects of the ongoing Bennett Landfill fire in northwestern Chester County will have a chance to get updates on the blaze from state and federal health officials Thursday, including whether any new federal action on the fire may be possible.
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control is hosting a community meeting in Lockhart along with officials from the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Both agencies have been monitoring the fire since it began burning in an underground seam of debris beneath the landfill in November.
Firefighters have been unable to extinguish the fire completely, and it still periodically releases plumes of smoke over the nearby Union County town of Lockhart, directly across the Broad River from the landfill.
Because of the difficulty in battling a fire that can continue to smolder under the surface, local officials have said they need the EPA to release federal funds that could pay to seal the area where smoke continues to escape.
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Because the landfill is located at a geographically higher elevation than the town of Lockhart, the smoke can become “trapped” in the town depending on weather conditions. This often occurs twice a day, according to the DHEC , usually in the early mornings and evenings.
The EPA will only undertake the initiative if the hazard level from the fire meets a specific threshold to merit releasing federal funds. The agency, along with the DHEC, has continued to monitor the air quality around the landfill for any harmful particulates, using seven air monitors stationed around the area, including at Lockhart Town Hall, the local school and on the front lawn of a farmhouse.
“DHEC requested that EPA evaluate the landfill site for possible actions that could be taken, under federal authority, to extinguish the fire,” DHEC spokesman Jim Beasley said in a statement on the meeting. “Therefore, during the meeting Thursday evening, the EPA will present findings from the assessment of the landfill fire, air monitoring results, and discuss resources for addressing the fire.”
Health officials send out weekly updates to government agencies in the affected areas. Community meetings such as the one Thursday are held to keep residents informed as well.
DHEC and EPA officials will present updates on the fire, what its potential effects on neighboring communities might be, and answer any questions or concerns residents may have.
The meeting will be held at the Lockhart Power Company, 420 River St., Lockhart, at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Bristow Marchant • 803-329-4062