PCB clean up is a drawn-out process. Officials say it will be likely next year before the visible work begins on Twelve Mile Creek in Pickens County. Two century-old dams will be removed as part of the plan to allow fresh sediment to flow into Lake Hartwell and cover the PCB contaminated lake bottom. There are eight federal “Superfund” PCB cleanup sites: Twelve mile creek and the original Sangamo Weston capacitor plant site in Pickens, as well as half a dozen disposal sites. Self says the federal cleanup efforts will continue for several more years. The French company Schlumberger now owns the plant once owned by Sangamo.
Ross Self directs Freshwater Fisheries with the state Department of Natural Resources. He says a secondary element of the cleanup work, natural resource restoration,is being paid for by Schlumberger. On top of the cost of the dam removal, the company must pay almost $12 million in general cleanup costs for Lake Hartwell.
Ross emphasizes that the dam removal, which may take place next year, will pose no threat to people living downstream or those who live on or use Lake Hartwell. “The whole point in removing the dams is to remove the contaminated sediments that may lie behind the dams, so that clean sediments that are flowing through the system now cover them up. The major source of PCBs in the drainage has been removed through EPA and Schlumberger’s efforts to clean up the plant site.”
Ross says the natural resources restoration process is being overseen by a special board of trustees. “The trustees include DNR, DHEC, US Army Corps of Engineers, US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the South Carolina Governor’s office.”
PCBs(polychlorinated biphenyls) were used in electrical equipment insulation until 1977 and have been linked to low birth weight and cancer.
Between 1955 and 1977 more than 400,000 pounds of PCSs were released into a tributary of Twelve Mile Creek.
Health officials recommend that no fish from Twelve Mile Creek or Lake Haretwell’s Seneca River arm be eaten. But they insist that the lake water is safe for swimming and skiing.