An asphalt company that has operated in the Rosewood neighborhood for generations will expand and a railroad terminal will be installed nearby under a deal struck last month with a major southeastern asphalt supplier, state records show.
The sale of SEACO Inc. to Associated Asphalt Inc. drew questions from some Rosewood business people and property owners, who said a larger operation could bring more trucks and air pollution to the gritty community in south Columbia.
But company officials said the change in ownership will save 28 jobs and create as many as five more, while minimizing environmental impacts. Officials would not disclose how much Associated Asphalt paid for SEACO.
The transaction should be seamless to the market, Associated Asphalt said in a recent news release.
In addition to SEACO, Associated Asphalt and affiliated companies are buying about nine adjacent acres along South Edisto Avenue, records show.
The additional property, formerly the site of Bagnal Builders, will hold the railroad terminal as part of an industrial redevelopment and cleanup plan, according to state Department of Health and Environmental Control records. DHEC records show that Associateds deal proposes to expand the SEACO asphalt plant.
SEACO has been the source of numerous spills through the years and groundwater remains contaminated beneath the property. An explosion rocked the plant in 2005, raising questions among Rosewood community residents about safety.
Located off Commerce Drive near the Owens Field airport, the SEACO plant is in an old industrial strip that has in the past been a battleground for other disputes with people who live nearby. In the 1990s, neighbors in the South Edisto Court area successfully fought to close a nuclear laundry. The area, between Rosewood Drive and Shop Road, today remains a mixed use of industrial property, churches, homes, small businesses and recreational sites.
Federal records show about 26,000 homes are within three miles of the asphalt plant. Various youth sports fields are less than half a mile away.
The plant also is a short distance from major rail lines and a spur runs to part of the land being looked as part of the expansion project and that, company officials say, is a key reason theyre looking at rail to replace trucks to service the plant.
Rosewood community leader Mike Miller and Ben Marshall, field manager for 3-year-old City Roots urban farm, said the asphalt plant sometimes produces strong odors that are hard to ignore. Miller described the smell as that of burning tires. Marshall also said groundwater in the area is too polluted to use on crops at City Roots because of contamination from another industrial plant years ago. City Roots is about one-tenth of a mile from SEACO.
I would not want to see any asphalt plant expanded, Marshall said. When they make asphalt, they are pumping a bunch of smoke out of their stack and we are smelling it. Their tanker trucks destroy the roads.
We already cannot drill a well I dont think any more possible polluting agents should be expanded anywhere near us.
Emile DeFelice, a farmer and businessman, said hed like to learn more. DeFelice wants to move a popular local farmers market from Whaley Street to an abandoned warehouse at the corner of Airport Boulevard and Commerce Drive.
Bill Kirk, president of Associated Asphalt, did not provide details of the extent of the expansion, but he said it would be done with the community in mind. Current employees will be retained and SEACO would retain its name, he said. While the company has had some complaints from neighbors at a facility in North Carolina, Kirk said new equipment installed during an expansion at SEACO would minimize odors. He said the asphalt plant does not release harmful air pollutants.
We are very proactive in that we want to eliminate these types of concerns before they even get to the level of a nuisance to anything or anybody, he said. There is nothing we do in our processes that has any harmful health effects at all.
The company says Associate Asphalts investment in Columbia would provide a $5 million boost to the local tax base.
Adam Myrick, a spokesman for DHEC, could not say if expanding the asphalt plant would increase air pollution in the Rosewood neighborhood. He also could not say how much air pollution is now released from the plant or the types of contaminants. Federal records indicate the SEACO plant currently is not a major air pollution source.
SEACO, which opened in 1949, is part of an operation that makes emulsified asphalt used in road-paving. The company has a division at the same site called Colprovia Asphalt Inc. Associated Asphalt, of Roanoke Va., is a leading asphalt company that operates in the Carolinas, Georgia, West Virginia, Florida and Virginia. It has an existing rail terminal in Inman, near Spartanburg.
Despite concerns about air pollution and increased traffic, Associated Asphalts plan is to test soil and groundwater on the property. If contamination is found, it would take steps to protect peoples health and the environment. The company would not necessarily be responsible for all previous pollution on the land. Any cleanup work would be done through the states Brownfields program, which allows companies to re-use already contaminated industrial sites in exchange for limited pollution cleanup.
The cleanup proposal is open for public comment through Tuesday. It can be found on DHECs website at http://www.scdhec.gov/environment/lwm/public_notice.asp. People wanting to weigh in can email DHEC at email@example.com or fulmerWA@dhec.sc.gov. Those wanting to discuss the plan also can call DHEC at (866) 576 3432.
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