U.S. Water News Online
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- State regulators, county officials, and
industry lawyers all blame each other for South Carolina's biggest
pollution problem in years.
One of the state's longest trails of groundwater contamination
lies at Red Bank Creek, as well as 12 miles of polluted creeks, 76
tainted wells, and ponds filled with toxic fish.
``This is probably one of the worst sites we are dealing with
today from the standpoint of public exposure,'' said Keith Lindler, a
hazardous waste cleanup expert with the state Department of Health
and Environmental Control.
State regulators say Lexington County's lack of land-use planning
put private wells in the path of industrial pollution. Officials
contend that if Lexington had better zoning rules to separate homes
from industries, many toxic chemicals from manufacturing plants might
not have shown up in the area's water wells.
But county leaders say it is the state's job to prevent pollution.
They say DHEC could have done more to protect wells and creeks from
Industry lawyers, meanwhile, say their clients followed the rules
laid out by the government. All told, eight companies are liable for
the pollution, DHEC alleges in lawsuits and enforcement actions.
South Carolina regulators didn't fine or shut down at least one
company that exceeded legal pollution discharge limits, according to
DHEC files obtained by The (Columbia) State. Some industries
ignored state pleas to clean up, public records show. Other documents
show companies legally dumped chemicals into a leaky septic tank.
County planners also didn't zone the Red Bank area or regulate
industries using toxic chemicals until long after the facilities
As a result, central Lexington County faces decades of lingering
contamination that has made the Red Bank area a focal point for water
pollution. DHEC officials estimate that it could be 20 years or more
before all the pollution breaks down or is cleaned up. Cleanup costs
could run up to $20 million, state regulators say.
Red Bank's woes have received priority attention from state
regulators. The area now is under consideration to become one of two
dozen heavily polluted federal Superfund sites in South Carolina.
Red Bank's problems were caused by long-term industrial pollution
-- primarily from the solvent trichloroethylene -- and an industrial
spill into Red Bank Creek of organic tin compounds.
Tin Products Inc. makes the compounds. Before the incident, the
company discharged its waste to the creek through public sewers and
The pollution has sparked concerns and lawsuits. State regulators
have sued Litton Industries, Carolina Steel & Wire Co., Superior
Container Service, Hoover Building Systems, and Safety-Kleen Corp.
for the pollution.
And a group of 45 Lexington County residents sued the companies
that DHEC says are responsible for the well contamination. In part,
they're worried polluted water has contributed to illnesses. They
want to establish a fund to pay for health problems from
trichloroethylene in their wells.
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