Santee Cooper says contaminants in soil ‘measurable’ but not ‘unacceptable’

Grand Strand

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Pretty soon Lake Busbee won’t be a lake.

Santee Cooper started draining the former coal plant cooling pond about a month ago. Already you can see the signs of that process. The lake wasn’t that deep to begin with anyway, but the water has gone down several feet over the month with parts of the bottom now visible. 

The lake will now return to wetlands. The decision comes after the City of Conway refused to take over the lake, questioning contamination. 

“For a while it’s gonna be an eyesore,” Al Boatright said, who lives in Horry County and passes the lake every day. “This past week it’s went down real fast,” he said. 

Boatright questions Santee Cooper’s decision to drain the water into the Waccamaw River. “If they were so concerned about the lake, why’d they put the water back in the river?”

It’s a question others have asked News13. So Wednesday we asked Santee Cooper for answers. 

“Nothing exceeded EPA water quality levels, as far as the testing of the water, ” said Susan Mungo, spokesperson for Santee Cooper. 

But the soil is a different story. Mungo said contamination levels found in the sediment are “measurable” but don’t “pose an unacceptable risk to human health or the environment.” 

We asked if the sediment or bottom feeders that might have been exposed to it pose a risk to the Waccamaw. “Not according to testing done for approved closure plan,” Mungo said in a follow-up text. 

“We basically want people to know environmentally we believe we’re doing the right thing here,” she said. “We are going to take it back to a natural wetland state.”

According to Mungo, the 40 or-so largemouth bass they relocated aren’t a risk either. The other smaller fish not placed in the river will become food for birds and alligators. 

“There’s a smell,” Danielle Smith said, who lives in Conway and regularly visits the lake’s trails. “But you know being in Horry County, Georgetown County area you know what you’re getting into because we have the Inlet, which smells a lot worse than this does.”

Santee Cooper says the draining process will continue over the next month, then they’ll let the land sit for the summer. They then will start planting native tree saplings in-season.

In the meantime, you can still use the trail for walking and biking, which will stay open when the area goes back to swampland. 

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