EPA to take samples at northern Beaufort County chemical plant

kpeterson@beaufortgazette.comNovember 26, 2011 

A Lobeco chemical plant where contaminants may exist is getting attention from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

An EPA spokeswoman said the agency plans to send workers to take samples at the site as soon as they are granted access, either from the property owner or the courts.

"We're trying to do this as fast as the law will allow us to do it," said Dawn Harris-Young.

No imminent danger exists, she said. "We know that nothing is leaking -- that there isn't anything on the site that needs immediate attention at this time."

Coastal Demolition and Construction of Tampa, Fla., was ordered to stop tearing down the plant on Jan. 18 after Beaufort County officials discovered the company didn't have the required permits. Coastal Demolition had purchased the former ArrMaz Custom Chemical plant on John Meeks Way in 2009.

That stop-work order is still in effect.

County attorney Josh Gruber said the site remains quiet, with equipment still parked where it was left months ago.

Environmental oversight at the property, however, has intensified.

In January, Beaufort County requested an all-clear from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, which investigated the site and began an "enforcement action." A DHEC spokesman declined to provide details about the action, and a Freedom of Information Act request for related documents is pending.

Then about a month ago, DHEC brought in the EPA, said DHEC spokesman Adam Myrick.

EPA workers did a preliminary inspection of the site earlier this month, Gruber said.

Asbestos remains on the site, but DHEC told residents in March that the unauthorized demolition did not disperse harmful fibers.

Two previous owners -- ArrMaz Specialty Chemicals and American Color and Chemical -- share the cost of cleaning up unspecified chemicals in the soil and groundwater, according to court documents in a related lawsuit.

Though the contaminants are an environmental hazard, Myrick said DHEC investigators "don't have any reason to believe at all that this site represents a threat to public health."

Myrick said department officials will hold a meeting with nearby residents after they know more, probably in the next few months.

Follow reporter Kyle Peterson at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.

Asbestos not a health threat at Lobeco plant, officials say. March 14, 2011

Environmental concerns delay chemical plant demolition indefinitely, Feb. 6, 2011

County halts chemical plant demolition over environmental concerns, Jan. 30, 2011

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