Priest protests coal ash landfill

WALTERBORO—There is a time for everything, and when Father Jeffrey A. Kendall heard about SCE&G’s controversial landfill proposal, he decided it was time to speak out.

“I’ve never considered myself an activist, but here I am in the middle of it,” he said.

He and his community learned recently that the S.C. Electric & Gas Company had filed a proposal with the Colleton County zoning board to build a 15-story landfill to handle toxic coal ash from its nearby power plant.

Since then, he and many others have joined in protest, saying the landfill would drive down property values, destroy the natural environment, and endanger public health.

Representatives from SCE&G have testified that the plant would be built to strict EPA standards and safety and monitoring would remain a top concern.

A final meeting and vote by the five-member zoning appeals board is scheduled for Feb. 24.

Father Kendall, who has a degree in civil engineering, said he has looked at the issue as a scientist and a priest, and doesn’t think it’s a good thing from either angle.

He presented a study by the Environmental Protection Agency that lists coal ash as a toxic substance.

He also spoke about the difficulties of keeping the fine powdery substance from drying out and blowing away, painting a picture of trucks transporting it down the highways at 60 miles per hour in 90-degree weather, and trying to keep it wet at the landfill all summer.

“I just think we’re going to have [toxic] dust blowing all over the place,” Father Kendall said.

He believes it will get into the water, which will affect everyone with a well and spread up the food chain to contaminate the food we eat.

Father Kendall has been pastor of St. Anthony Church in Walterboro for about six months and has 28 acres of woods and farmland where he raises chickens, keeps a beehive, and cares for stray animals.

“I grew up with a love for the environment and an impression that we have to care for it,” he said.

The priest has spoken at several gatherings. His paraphrase of Isaiah 45:18, “God did not create the Earth to be a waste, but to be lived in,” was met with loud applause and cheers.

A big concern for protestors is the proximity of the landfill to the ACE Basin, which has been designated a world class ecosystem under The Nature Conservancy’s Last Great Places program.

Father Kendall said he prays that everyone can work together for a compromise.