Moncks Corner mayor targets bioenergy company’s odor

  • Thursday, August 21, 2014

Lindsay Street/Independent GenEarth's odor has concerned citizens since it opened in 2013.

Something smells in Moncks Corner.

Moncks Corner Mayor and County Supervisor-elect Bill Peagler is asking anyone with a complaint about the smell coming from GenEarth, a bioenergy plant off of Oakley Road, to contact the Town Police Department and file an incident complaint.

Citizens living outside the Town should call the Sheriff’s Office and provide a copy of their incident report to Moncks Corner Police Chief Chad Caldwell.

The reports will be sent to the state’s environmental agency to allow action to either shut down the company or cause it to improve its stench. Reports should include the exact time and date of the problem, stating if the odor was at an undesirable level and stating the character and degree of injury or interference to personal health; health of plant, animal or wildlife; property damage; or enjoyment of life.

GenEarth leases property at the Oakley Road landfill, between Highway 17-A and Highway 52. The Sumter-based company opened the location in early 2013 — and residents say the horrible smells have been unceasing ever since.

Thompson Construction Group of Sumter owns the majority of GenEarth, and the company’s vice president represented GenEarth during a May County Council committee meeting. John Halbig said GenEarth has spent $150,000 so far in odor control and planned on spending another $350,000.

He said with additional odor controls, there should be a “considerable” odor reduction over the summer, but the odor could be smelled on Highway 52 earlier this week.

“We understand we have a problem and we are working very hard to deal with it. We are disappointed our odor is causing so many problems,” Halbig said during the May meeting.

Berkeley County is one of a handful of public entities in the Charleston area to pay the company to take sludge waste. GenEarth converts organic waste into amino and organic acids, then bio-gases such as methane. The gas is converted into about 1.6 megawatts of electricity, which is fed back into the power grid in partnership with Santee Cooper.

According to the company, a high-heat process that allows the waste to also become usable on cropland, and the process in which the product is applied on the fields are to blame for the stink.

The mayor has asked his staff to prepare a report documenting with sufficient data that there is a problem. The report will be handed over to S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

In a release to media, the mayor said he is “very sympathetic” to the concerns of the public and he will do everything possible to correct the problem.

DHEC is the only entity capable of shutting down the company over its odor, according to County Supervisor Dan Davis.

Davis told the Independent this week that he wasn’t aware of any new complaints from nearby residents of the plant.

“I know they’re working very hard to eliminate the smell. I truly believe they will eventually solve that issue and we hope they will soon,” Davis said.

Davis was integral in bringing the cutting-edge bioenergy company to Berkeley County.

“This is a new technology so we didn’t have any way of knowing (how bad the smell will be),” Davis said.

Peagler will be unopposed in the November general election for supervisor after defeating fellow Republican and incumbent Dan Davis in June. Barring a successful write-in campaign, Peagler will be sworn into office in January, leaving his mayoral position he’s held for 10 years.

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