Victoria Whaley hopes the health tests she took Monday don’t show signs of exposure to toxic pollutants that were discovered recently in her neighborhood, a place she has called home for 48 years.
But Whaley, 78, worries more about the children and grandchildren she raised in Columbia’s Edisto Court community. The pollution could have existed for decades without anyone knowing.
“I hope we don’t find out at this stage of the game they were exposed all of their lives,’’ Whaley said. “They’ve lived here and grown up and now have children of their own.’’
Whaley and her 38-year-old grandson were among 41 people who had tests to see if they were contaminated with lead and arsenic. The toxic industrial byproducts, found recently in at least eight yards along a popular Edisto Court street, can cause learning defects in children and an array of health problems in adults, including high blood pressure and kidney disease.
Because of the potential
health threat, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control set up a clinic Monday at Edisto Discovery Park Community Center in the heart of the neighborhood off Rosewood Drive near the Jim Hamilton – L.B. Owens Airport.
DHEC health officials took blood and urine samples at the center. Edisto Court residents, ranging from grandmothers such as Whaley to neighborhood children, came in for the tests.
The 41 people, some braving late afternoon storms, represented 21 households in Edisto Court. Of those tested, eight were under 18 years of age, DHEC reported Monday night. Testing continues from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. today. Results are expected in several weeks.
Last month, DHEC officials announced they had found lead and arsenic contamination in the soil in some Edisto Court yards. They have said the contamination came from an old industrial area next door that through the years has contained a mix of businesses, including a fertilizer plant that operated from 1900 to about 1940. Sometime through the years, toxins escaped the site and trickled into a lake that later was drained and developed.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and DHEC are expected to conduct more soil tests as soon as today to verify preliminary results.
Whaley and others in the neighborhood say it’s hard to understand how lead and arsenic could exist in the soil of Edisto Court for years – without anyone knowing it was there.
“I’ve been wondering why now have they just found this stuff and we’ve been living here, raising children,’’ she said.
Delphine Rather, 52, said she has similar questions. Rather didn’t grow up in Edisto Court, but has health problems that she does not want to worsen from exposure to toxins. A former cab driver in Columbia, she has had a stroke and now has difficulty seeing
Kenneth Hurey, 54, also had his blood and urine tested late in the day. He is a Howe Street resident who lives just around the corner from Easy Street, where most of the contamination has been found so far.
“We’re all here to die, but we shouldn’t be in a hurry to die, either,’’ he said. “If I am found with some kind of contamination, I would want the best medical help I could get that they could provide.’’