COLUMBIA, SC — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finished cleaning up toxic pollution in a Columbia neighborhood that for generations knew nothing of the lead and arsenic contamination threatening peoples health.
Now, with the public health threat eliminated from neighborhood yards, state regulators will oversee the cleanup of nearby commercial and industrial property to ensure no more contamination trickles into the Edisto Court community, state and city officials said.
After a community meeting Thursday, city councilman Moe Baddourah said cleanup at one site closest to the neighborhood will occur in the next 90 days. The property is adjacent to the TVK mini-warehouses.
We are in discussions with the folks at TVK to make sure we get an equivalent level of cleanup, said Ken Taylor, an official with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. We also will be working with other commercial properties.
Kevin Floyd, a spokesman for the Nexsen Pruett law firm that is representing TVK, said the company is working with regulators to clean up the site.
A fertilizer plant that once stood across Commerce Drive is believed to have contaminated the area along Easy and Howe streets with lead and arsenic sometime between 1900 and 1940, before the homes were built, state and federal regulators suspect.
DHEC discovered the contamination last summer.
DHEC then tested people for exposure to arsenic and lead. The agency says no one had unsafe levels of either contaminant in their bodies, but the EPA launched a cleanup this fall to ensure exposure to lead and arsenic did not continue.
Lead, which can cause learning disabilities in children, can be dangerous to youngsters who play in the dirt and put their hands in their mouths. Arsenic also can affect childrens abilities to learn.
A total of 13 yards were cleaned up. EPA contractors dug up soil, hauled away the polluted dirt and brought in fresh soil. They then topped the new soil with sod.
All told, the EPA removed about 1,500 tons of soil, mostly from the top 12 to 24 inches of peoples yards, the EPAs Rick Jardine said. Shrubbery and walkways that were dug up during the work were replaced.
The EPAs cleanup is expected to cost taxpayers about $500,000.