This month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began the process of cleaning up contaminated soil from yards in a small seventy year old community in Columbia near Owens Field airport. Tests performed in August of this year determined the levels of arsenic and lead were above federal safety standards. This is a full abatement and removal effort involving over a dozen workers using heavy equipment. Additionally, there are dust particle measuring devices to verify that no contaminated dust escapes the removal site. The removed soil will be tested to see if they contain any leachable toxins. If so, they may be classified as hazardous wastes, which will require significant care in handling and disposal. The removal and remediation, assuming no serious issues arise, is expected to be completed by year’s end.
The specific origin of the contaminants is not yet determined, but seems to be most likely from a fertilizer plant that was on the site but closed in the 1930’s.
The cleanup is part of an investigation begun by state regulators earlier this summer after a consulting report identified high arsenic levels in groundwater beneath a nearby asphalt plant. Because asphalt plants do not typically produce arsenic, DHEC began looking for possible sources. DHEC and the EPA later verified soil pollution in some parts of Edisto Court adjacent to the industrial site.