The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has found that about one-fourth of the yards tested in a neighborhood off Rosewood Drive are contaminated with toxic metals above federal safety standards.
EPA contractors finished their soil sampling work this week in the Edisto Court community. The next step is for the agency to decide whether to clean up the mess at taxpayer expense.
A decision may not come for several months because the EPAs findings must be verified through a laboratory and the Edisto Court threat must be weighed against other funding priorities for cleanup in the Southeast, officials have said.
But the agencys findings add to the weight of evidence that the working-class-community has been affected by lead and arsenic contamination, which state regulators say may have existed for decides without anyone knowing about it.
Results arent yet available from blood and urine tests taken from residents this week.
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control identified elevated lead and arsenic levels in the soil of about eight yards on Easy Street during tests last month. The EPAs work confirms those findings, showing that much of the pollution is in yards along the narrow lane.
We certainly have plenty of good data; we have a pretty clear picture of what is going on, the EPAs Rick Jardine said Friday. Were starting to form opinions and actions now. As soon as we get our raw data back from the lab, which will be a week to 10 days, well start notifying folks.
The EPAs soil testing revealed that about one dozen of the approximately 45 tested yards tested contained lead and arsenic over acceptable safety levels, he said. Those levels exceed 325 parts-per-million for lead in soil and 39 parts-per-million for arsenic in soil, Jardine said. Levels above those amounts present potential safety hazards. All told, about 250 environmental samples were taken and sent to the laboratory, he said.
Jardine, the agencys on-scene coordinator in Columbia, said the polluted Easy Street yards are those in Edisto Court closest to an industrial corridor on Commerce Drive. At least one spot on Howe Street also shows elevated levels. He declined to identify specific lots where the pollution has been found.
The health threat from lead and arsenic comes from exposure to the soil, where the toxins are buried. Children who play in the dirt and then put their hands in their mouths could ingest lead or arsenic.
Arsenic has been tied to certain cancers. Lead is particularly dangerous to children because it can retard their ability to learn in school, even if they are exposed to small amounts.
DHEC says a long-closed fertilizer plant is the most likely source of the pollution, rather than existing businesses in the area. The Royster Guano Co. closed in the late 1930s, regulators say. The state agency identified the contamination after reading a consultants report for a possible asphalt plant expansion nearby.
Jenna Stephens, president of the Rosewood Community Council, said the EPAs findings are a concern and the toxins should be cleaned up. Edisto Court is a predominantly African-American neighborhood and part of the larger Rosewood community.
We dont know what is going to happen right now, but we are optimistic that one of these agencies, state or federal, will be helping out these residents, Stephens said.
Last week, DHEC discovered more than one-third of the yards on Easy Street had elevated levels of lead and arsenic in the soil, The State newspaper reported. Most of those were on the south side of the street closest to the old industrial site, the paper reported. Readings ranged from nine to 39 times acceptable limits.
Nearly 70 people were screened by DHEC this past week for the presence of lead or arsenic in their bodies. Results of those tests are pending.
In the meantime, DHEC plans a meeting Aug. 28 to discuss environmental issues in the industrial corridor at Edisto Court. The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. in the auditorium of A.C. Moore Elementary School on Rosewood Drive.
When you have a situation like this, you try to allocate resources, DHEC director Catherine Templeton said Thursday, noting that we put the community first here.
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