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Santee Cooper's used motor oil recovery program collects 30 million gallons in 25 years


MONCKS CORNER, S.C. — South Carolina's largest used motor oil collection effort, Santee Cooper's Give Oil for Energy Recovery (GOFER) program, has collected more than 30 million gallons of used motor oil as it celebrates its 25th birthday this month. Those 30 million gallons, which would have otherwise been discarded, have safely been converted into enough Santee Cooper electricity to power every average-sized home in the Palmetto State for 10 days.

Santee Cooper, the state-owned electric and water utility, began GOFER as a pilot program in April 1990 as a way to mark the 20th anniversary of Earth Day. Santee Cooper collected about 700 gallons of used motor oil in two days in Berkeley and Horry counties. Three months later, on July 30, 1990, the program formally began with several more collection sites.

"For a quarter century now, Santee Cooper has offered our state's residents a solution for environmentally responsible used oil disposal," said Pamela Williams, Santee Cooper's senior vice president of corporate services. "Santee Cooper is committed to environmental stewardship, and GOFER's statewide service helps us meet our mission and turn a potential environmental hazard into a source of electricity from which we all benefit."

GOFER went statewide in June 1991, which coincided with a state law that banned improper used oil disposal, and Santee Cooper opened its 100th GOFER site in 1992. By 1994, there were GOFER sites in every South Carolina county, and that year the program topped 1 million gallons in annual collections for the first time. By the mid-1990s, the GOFER program was not only growing, but changing the way people thought about used oil since there were more opportunities to easily recycle used oil.

"When people take their used oil to a recycling center serviced by Santee Cooper's GOFER program, they can feel confident the used oil is being handled and recycled in a manner that is good for the environment and good for our state," Williams said.

"The importance of recycling used motor oil can't be over-stated," said Elizabeth Dieck, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control's director of environmental affairs. "Every ounce of oil that is recycled is another ounce that is prevented from potentially contaminating our soil and water. And, just as importantly, this recycled oil generates power for homes and industry."

Annual collections have routinely exceeded 1 million gallons and occasionally, 2 million gallons. The program's rapid expansion in its early days was due to partnerships Santee Cooper forged with DHEC, the state's electric cooperatives, and county recycling centers, where many GOFER tanks are located.

Santee Cooper has a fleet of four vacuum trucks and three tanker trailers that collects oil at 450 GOFER sites and from approximately 1,500 industrial and commercial operations, including farmers.

Improper used oil disposal, such as dumping, is against the law in South Carolina. One gallon of used oil can pollute 1 million gallons of freshwater, contaminate soil and threaten wildlife. There is enough energy in two gallons of used oil to power the average South Carolina home for one day, so recovering this resource makes sense.

As the GOFER character mascot says of used oil, "Don't dump it, GOFER it!" To find a GOFER site near you, call the GOFER Hotline at 800-753-2233 or go to for more information.

Santee Cooper is South Carolina's largest power provider, the largest Green Power generator and the ultimate source of electricity for 2 million people across the state. Through its low-cost, reliable and environmentally responsible electricity and water services, and through innovative partnerships and initiatives that attract and retain industry and jobs, Santee Cooper powers South Carolina. To learn more, visit