In fall 2015, DHEC began investigating in the Cheraw area around the former Burlington Industrial Fibers (James Plant) due to a concern about sludge-like material found in a nearby vacant lot. In February 2016, DHEC collected samples at the vacant lot at the intersection of Little John Road and Robin Hood Drive. Results found PCBs at concentrations above the EPA's Residential Regional Screening Levels for PCBs in soil. (NOTE: Residential Screening Levels are levels that are considered safe for residential areas.)
Additional sampling conducted in August 2016 found higher PCB concentrations, as well as some pesticides, in the ditch located between Pecan Drive and Robin Hood Drive. Homeowners/residents were notified of the results of samples taken in their yards.
Following a third round of sampling in September 2016 to further define the area of contamination, DHEC requested assistance from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA assigned an On-Scene Coordinator to evaluate the PCB contamination for a removal action. DHEC collected approximately 90 additional samples in November 2016.
On December 30, 2016, the EPA officially notified DHEC that it had conducted an evaluation of the site for cleanup activities and was recommending the site be given priority for removal under the Superfund Removal Program. At this point the EPA took the lead in the investigation and cleanup and began determining the most effective method(s) for minimizing the potential for future impacts to public health and the environment.
In mid-February 2017, DHEC assisted the EPA with detailed sampling of selected residential properties on Pecan Drive. Approximately 900 samples were collected. Results from this sampling have helped determine a cost estimate for cleanup.
On April 25, 2017, the EPA signed an Action Memorandum for a removal action at the former Burlington Industries Cheraw Site. This memorandum serves as the primary decision document that determines the need for a removal action, authorizes the removal action, identifies the action and cleanup levels, and explains the reason for the removal response. This initial phase of the removal action funded the cleanup of seven (7) residential properties contaminated with PCBs. Play equipment was removed from Huckleberry Park and a limited removal of contaminated soil from known hot spots was performed.
The EPA established a tiered approach to categorize properties for the removal action. Two tiers were established based on the magnitude of PCB concentrations measured in occupied residential properties. The initial action addressed the first tier of properties. Additional actions were planned to address the second tier of occupied residential properties. Additional properties were added as subsequent sample data were collected and evaluated.
Huckleberry Park was evaluated by the EPA to determine what action was needed to protect children that may use the park. Initial actions in the park were targeted to support protective measures. Any further cleanup work in the park will be evaluated and communicated to the Town of Cheraw and the surrounding community.
In early June 2017, the EPA moved equipment and supplies to the area and soil removal began at the seven (7) residential properties on Pecan Drive with the highest amount of PCB contamination. This initial action addressed the first tier of properties and has been completed.
On July 18, 2017, DHEC received notification from the EPA that additional funding had been approved for removing soil at seven (7) Tier II occupied residential properties. The additional work included removing playground equipment and soil within Huckleberry Park, which is considered a Tier II area. The total cleanup project cost is approximately $1,993,200.00. This work was completed in fall 2017.
On October 16, 2017, the USEPA and Highland Industries, Inc. entered into an Administrative Settlement Agreement and Order on Consent for Removal Actions. These agreements cover additional removal actions that will be needed at the site to address PCBs in soil on the Highland Industries property, PCBs in soil and sediment in the drainage ditch, and PCBs in soil at Huckleberry Park. On November 22, 2017, draft documents required by the consent agreement were provided to the USEPA and DHEC including the Removal Action Work Plan, a Health and Safety Plan, the Quality Assurance Project Plan, and the Field Sampling and Analysis Plan.
Additional information on the progress of the removal activities can be found in EPA's Progress Reports (POLREPs):