Much-praised company guilty of repeat environmental violations

sfretwell@thestate.comOctober 26, 2013 

McCall Farms drew plenty of praise last year when the family-owned business announced a $10.6 million expansion that would create 80 jobs in Florence County.

“Announcements like this one show we are on the right track with our economic development efforts,” Gov. Nikki Haley said in July 2012, echoing proud comments from local politicians and state agriculture officials.

But for all of its economic impact on the Pee Dee, McCall Farms is a repeat violator of environmental laws in South Carolina. The business is among the state’s top 20 companies and governments with the most repeat violations since the 1990s that also have had violations recently.

According to state environmental records, regulators have issued enforcement orders against the company 13 times since 1995, fining McCall more than $100,000.

Records reviewed by The State newspaper show that many of McCall Farms’ violations revolve around water pollution in the Lynches River watershed, although some of the violations are for air pollution.

Included in the violations is a $2,100 fine this year. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control said the farming and cannery company didn’t meet wastewater discharge limits for substances that lower oxygen levels in waterways.

McCall Farms did not respond to a request for comment by The State, but it’s hard to imagine a more popular company..

In 2012, company executives received the business person of the year award at the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce’s annual membership luncheon. The company has launched several expansions through the years that have steadily added jobs. Today, McCall Farms employs about 800 people and enjoys strong support from powerful politicians, including Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence.

“McCall Farms is a fine example of a local homegrown business, adding so much to our community,” Leatherman said at the July 2012 expansion announcement.

McCall Farms began in the mid-1800s. Some four dozen products sold mostly in the South are canned at McCall Farms. Those include food sold under the Margaret Holmes brand.

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