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Royster Fertilizer Site - Columbia

Soil Sampling on Commercial Properties and Rights-of-Way

Environmental contractors began collecting soil samples on commercial properties and rights-of-way along Commerce Drive during the final week of June 2014. This work is being conducted as part of DHEC's ongoing investigation of arsenic and lead soil contamination that began in May 2012. The sampling is occurring in two phases and is not expected to adversely affect anyone living in the Edisto Court or other nearby communities.

In March 2014, a limited soil cleanup was performed along Commerce Drive as a result of surface water run-off following a water line break and heavy rains in January. The top layer of soil in the rights-of-way on Commerce Drive were removed and replaced with clean soil. A Street cleaning was also performed on Easy Street after the work along Commerce Drive was completed.

The F.S. Royster Guano Company (Royster) was a fertilizer plant located on Commerce Drive in Columbia in the early 1900s. The Edisto Court Community is currently located opposite of the former plant site. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) knows very little about the Royster plant because it operated prior to environmental regulations and permitting. However, based on research conducted by DHEC staff, the plant made superphosphate fertilizer. Large tanks were located on the plant site containing sulfuric acid that was mixed with phosphate ore to make the fertilizer. Royster produced the sulfuric acid in lead-lined chambers using the lead chamber process. The waste material from the fertilizer manufacturing process contained high levels of arsenic and lead.

In May 2012, DHEC was notified that arsenic was found in the soils and groundwater on part of the former Royster property. The contamination was discovered through environmental investigations conducted during a pre-buy assessment for a portion of the former plant site and surrounding properties. DHEC collected additional soil samples at and around the property to confirm these findings. On July 25, 2012, DHEC staff visited residents on Easy Street, Howe Street and Corning Road and requested permission to take soil samples from their front and/or back yards. Samples were also collected from nearby businesses and other public locations. Samples were taken from: 41 houses (52 total samples), 6 businesses (18 total samples), 2 parks (8 total samples), and 7 samples from public rights-of-way.

DHEC staff visited residents and businesses again on July 30, 2012 to share our findings. Residents whose samples showed elevated levels of arsenic and/or lead were given a hand-out on how to reduce their exposure until a soil cleanup action can be coordinated. We recognize that knowing the contamination has spread beyond the former Royster property will be unsettling and upsetting to many families. Our first priority is ensuring the safety of all affected residents. It is important to note that the communities surrounding the former Royster site 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.

In July 2012, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) performed air monitoring and additional soil sampling and testing within the Rosewood Community at the request of DHEC. EPA's sampling confirmed DHEC's initial findings of arsenic and lead in the soils and helped to define the extent and depth of the contamination within the community. EPA determined that soils should be removed on approximately 12 properties where the highest levels of arsenic and lead were found.

The EPA began cleanup of contaminated soil in the Edisto Court Community during the first week of November 2012. The initial steps of cleanup involved taking out fencing and some trees on the affected properties before the soil could be removed. Detailed property, home and garden surveys were conducted with individual homeowners prior to any work being done. Approximately 100 dump truck loads of contaminated soil were removed from the affected yards and replaced with clean soil and sod. The contaminated soil was taken to an approved landfill for disposal. EPA's cleanup work was completed in December 2012.

For additional information on EPA's evaluation and cleanup at this site, please visit

For more information, please visit our webpage on the Seaco Inc. and Bagnal Builders properties located at Commerce Drive and South Edisto Avenue.

Blood & Urine Test Results Provided to Residents

Individual results from the blood testing for lead, and urine testing for arsenic, have been shared with residents of the Edisto Court Community. The results of the testing have shown that all levels were within the normal range and no medical follow-up is required at this time. Lead, arsenic and other metals naturally occurring in nature may be detectable in people. Levels found in the body that do not cause illness or disease, and do not require treatment or further investigation, are considered to be in the "normal range."

Because environmental testing has shown that there are elevated levels of lead and arsenic in the soil in some areas of the Edisto Court Community, DHEC encourages residents to continue to follow the recommendations provided to reduce any future exposure.

DHEC offered the free blood and urine testing to residents within the affected area (Easy Street, Howe Street and Corning Road) to determine any possible recent exposure to lead or arsenic. Those with children living in the affected area were strongly encouraged to have their children tested. The testing was provided August 6-7, 2012, from 11:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m., at the Edisto Discovery Park Community Center located at 1914 Wiley Street, Columbia, SC 29205. A total of 80 residents were tested.

For questions or additional information about lead or arsenic toxicity, please contact Fran Marshall, DHEC State Toxicologist, at (803) 898-9197.

DHEC News Releases

DHEC is committed to keeping the Rosewood community informed of future developments and has established this web page where additional information can be obtained. This page will be updated as new information is made available.

The arsenic and lead contamination is not associated with, nor a result of, asphalt emulsion operations by Seaco, Inc. at the former Royster site.

For questions or additional information, please contact Karen Sprayberry, DHEC Community Liaison, at (803) 898-1249, or by e-mail or Donna Moye, DHEC Public Participation Coordinator, at (803) 896-4281 e-mail.

Description: Former Royster Guano Fertilizer Plant, satellite image