After floodwaters caused chemical pollution from an old textile plant to wash into their home in September, two Cheraw residents are suing the plant’s modern owner.
The home is 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. Heavy rains from Tropical Storm Florence caused flooding which then washed the contaminated soil into at least five homes downstream. The EPA evacuated the homes for cleanup.
“Every time the creek overflows, it spreads the contamination,” said attorney Gary Poliakoff, who represents the Martin family. “When you get a hurricane, it not only overflows but comes into people’s houses. Florence was the first time I’m aware of it flowing into people’s houses, but it overflows repeatedly onto those residential lots.”
Even before the storm, the Environmental Protection Agency has been working with Highland Industries to remove PCBs rom the former Burlington Industries site. EPA investigators say the company had discharged contaminated material into the environment prior to the 1980s. Highland later acquired the plant.
Poliakoff said Highland knew, or should have known, that contaminated soil was washing downstream. However, he insisted the company took no precautions to prevent such discharges.
“There were clearly substances of concern on the site that they were acquiring,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “They either knew or willfully cast a blind eye to it. There was ample evidence of it.”
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) discovered the PCBs in 2016 after residents noticed a “sludge-like material” in a neighborhood that was built atop the former plant’s drying beds. Contaminated soil was later found at 37 homes and nearby Huckleberry Park. The EPA later declared the area a “Superfund” site and worked with Highlands to clean the pollution.