My Experiences in the Field at Santee Cooper
Fieldwork has been an integral part of my experience so far at Santee Cooper, and the most enjoyable aspect of my job. As a member of the Coal Combustion Products & Waste Management department, I have had exposure to a diverse range of environmental topics.
Groundwater monitoring has definitely been the most extensive component of my fieldwork. Before coming to Santee Cooper, I knew very little about groundwater sampling, or the state and federal regulations that require it.
Since then, I have learned much about Coal Combustion Residue (CCR), the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, and solid waste management regulations. These regulations require monitoring of the groundwater surrounding ash ponds, landfills and other sites impacted by spills or releases.
My supervisor and I have traveled several Santee Cooper sites to sample groundwater. This includes Winyah, Cross, Grainger and Jefferies generating stations; the Hilton Head Island gas turbine site, and the Conway Service Center.
After we collect the samples, we turn them over to our Analytical and Biological Services department, which is responsible for analyzing samples to meet reporting requirements.
Another important and significant field task I assisted with was the Waccamaw River sediment sampling, before and after the historical flood caused by hurricane Florence. In preparation for the expected, historic flooding following Hurricane Florence, baseline sediment samples had to be collected every few miles along the bottom of the Waccamaw River using a Ponar dredge sampler, which scooped mud off the river bottom.
We performed sediment sampling again immediately following the overtopping of ash pond No. 1, and a third time one month later. Thankfully, due to the diligent and hard work of numerous departments throughout Santee Cooper and the installation of the AquaDam, the ash pond that still contained thousands of tons of ash did not over top.
The sediment sampling of the Waccamaw River was still a crucial part of Santee Cooper’s response to this historic flood, and a new and interesting experience for me.
Overall, I think my field experiences are what I will most remember and cherish about my time here as a co-op student in the CCP & Waste Management department.
Matthew Absher is a cooperative student at Santee Cooper, attends Clemson University and plays on the Tiger’s rugby team. Asher works in Coal Combustion Products & Waste Management under Susan Jackson.