Track hoe sinking into water off Capers Island not an environmental risk, DHEC says

mmcnab@beaufortgazette.comJune 23, 2013 

A piece of construction equipment sinking into the marsh on Capers Island in Beaufort County doesn't pose an immediate environmental risk, an S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control spokeswoman said Friday.

DHEC public information specialist Lindsey Evans said a track hoe -- a heavy-construction vehicle on metal tracks used to dig and transport material -- became stuck in a soft spot of marsh along an eroding beach on the island in April.

Evans said the owner quickly removed the fuel and hydraulic fluids from the track hoe to prevent them from leaking into the water. The owner also took measures to prevent any loose parts from breaking off of the track hoe in the surf and washing out to sea, Evans said.

"The owner has done everything he can to prevent an environmental hazard," Evans said.

Evans said DHEC was notified of the sinking track hoe April 22. Since then, the department has waited for the homeowner to submit a removal plan for DHEC to approve, she said.

The track hoe was being used by a homeowner on the island to move his home farther inland from the beach, Evans said. Aside from a few homes, Capers Island -- south of Fripp Island at the mouth of Trenchards Inlet -- is mostly uninhabited and inaccessible by road.

A man who declined to provide his name said the track hoe's cabin was almost completely submerged during low tide in the waist-deep water he waded out into to view the vehicle. At high tide, only the top of the raised arm of the excavator was visible above the water, he said.

"I don't know how they're going to get it out of the water without using a barge and crane," he said.

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