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Cheraw PCB Investigation and Cleanup

The PCB contamination in Cheraw is an ongoing cleanup project.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken the lead in the cleanup and is determining the most effective method(s) for minimizing the potential for future impacts to public health and the environment.

This web page has been developed by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) as a community resource and will be updated as new information about the site is made available.

Overview

DHEC has confirmed the presence of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other chemical contamination in a drainage ditch behind the former Burlington Industrial Fibers (James Plant) located at 650 Chesterfield Highway in Cheraw (Chesterfield County), South Carolina. Contamination has also been found in sediments and soils in and along the ditch downstream to the Great Pee Dee River three (3) miles away (including downstream portions of Wilson’s Branch and Huckleberry Branch), as well as Huckleberry Park located about one mile downstream from the former James Plant.

The first priority of the EPA, DHEC, and the Town of Cheraw is ensuring the safety of residents and keeping the local community informed as the site progresses and next steps are determined.

It is important to note that communities surrounding the former James Plant are served by a public water system.  The contamination does not pose a risk to those who drink, prepare food, bathe or irrigate with water supplied by a public water system.

History

The Cheraw PCB contamination is very likely the result of historical practices of waste removal from industrial processes prior to the existence of environmental regulations.  The discharge is believed to have occurred between 1961 and 1972 when the Town of Cheraw did not have a sanitary sewer system in place, and Town of Cheraw officials were not aware of any environmental contamination discharge. 

In the late 1950s, the former Burlington Industrial Fibers (James Plant) encompassed an approximate 50-acre parcel. The site now includes a manufacturing complex and multiple residential lots to the north where former sludge drying beds were located.  A large land tract owned by Burlington was sold in 1990 to a developer who subdivided it into the current residential neighborhood.  Based on overlays of historical aerial photography, it appears that the sludge drying beds sat predominantly on the vacant lot at the intersection of Little John Road and Robin Hood Drive.  Today, this lot is mostly cleared with woods bordering the south, east, and west boundaries. 

Over time, various specialty textiles are believed to have been produced at the former James Plant.  The PCB contamination is believed to have originated on the current facility property and vacant residential lot where the sludge drying beds were located. Sampling has found widespread PCB contamination in soils on the current facility property, in the drainage ditch that originates on the current facility property, in nearby residential yards, and in the surface water pathway downstream to include associated tributaries leading to the Great Pee Dee River.  PCBs have also been found in Huckleberry Park.  Flooding in the ditch and tributaries is believed to have contributed to the extensive areas of contamination that exist today.

DHEC has found no information to suggest that the currently operating facility released PCBs to the environment at any time.