The EPA has removed residents from four homes in Cheraw after finding potentially hazardous material once floodwaters receded.
The homes are close to a former industrial fabrics plant that the agency deemed a “Superfund” site earlier this year after state inspectors found unsafe levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) contamination in the soil. However, it appears last week’s flooding may have washed the contaminated soil into the homes.
EPA On-Scene Coordinator Matt Huyser said inspectors reviewing sediment inside the homes once floodwaters went down found the PCBs. “Once we determined that PCBs had been detected inside the living spaces of those homes, we quickly dispatched an emergency response crew to begin cleaning those homes,” he told South Carolina Radio Network.
The State newspaper first reported the contamination earlier this week.
Huyser said the emergency response teams are working to clean up the contamination as quickly as they can. He said crews will use traditional cleaning chemicals and bleach to start, then move on to stronger materials if needed.
“It will be a matter of days, not weeks,” he said.
South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) discovered PCBs in the soil behind the former Burlington Industries plant in 2016. PCB was often used in industrial cooling until it was banned by Congress after 1979 because of its link to cancer. However, there were no laws regarding its disposal during the time Burlington was believed to be using the sludge beds from 1961-1972. The company went bankrupt and was acquired in the 1980s.
DHEC said its further investigation found the homes had been built near a former sludge drying bed. The EPA removed heavily contaminated surface soil last year from 14 properties and a nearby park.
Burlington Industries descendant Highland Industries had been paying to remove the contamination prior to last week’s flood. “We have volunteered to provide additional aid to the EPA in its ongoing efforts to clean the contaminated Burlington Industries Cheraw Superfund site, now exacerbated by the hurricane,’’ Cheraw Plant Manager Evan Tindal said in a prepared statement. “Highland Industries will help remove and dispose materials from the EPA’s efforts to clean affected homes neighboring our facility.’’