CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Nearly $6.6 million from a proposed settlement with Exxon Mobil will go towards restoring Charleston area saltmarshes and building oyster reefs.
The money will be split among several state and federal agencies to reimburse administrative expenses related to the damage assessment of contaminants dumped into the Ashley and Beaufort Rivers and about 100 acres of saltmarshes by the phosphate fertilizer industry since the late 1800s.
“The phosphate fertilizer industry was arguably the largest industry in South Carolina, but the negative impacts of commercial fertilizers were unknown. Phosphate fertilizer production contaminated industrial sites with sulfuric acid, lead, arsenic, copper, mercury, and zinc,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Damage Assessment, Remediation and Restoration Progrm. “Pollutants were transported from the industrial sites through surface and groundwater. Around 100 acres of saltmarshes and the Ashley and Beaufort Rivers were impacted. These contaminants have been shown to cause a range of toxic responses in marine and estuarine life, including increased mortality, developmental problems, and reproductive problems.”
The vast majority of the settlement money will also fund future projects to restore damaged ecosystems.
Building oyster reefs is a big part of the plan, although the specifics of when and where have not been set.
Officials say oysters will help filter and improve water quality.
“We love the environment. We love the water. We love fishing. We love getting outside, so being able to maintain or protect our resources or restore them when they’ve been injured in the past is just a key to our quality of life here in South Carolina,” said Marine Habitat Restoration Specialist Howard Schnabolk.
He has been working under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to help secure the money from Exxon Mobil.
The agency was one of several plaintiffs in a federal complaint brought against Exxon Mobil Oil Corporation for recovery of damages for injury to, loss of, or destruction of natural resources.
The proposed settlement agreement for $6,589,211 has been posted on the federal register for public comment until June 7.
To submit comments by email, send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To submit comments by mail, send them to: Assistant Attorney General, U.S. DOJ—ENRD, P.O. Box 7611, Washington, DC 20044–7611.