Environmental concerns have prompted Beaufort County officials to halt the demolition of a former chemical plant in Seabrook.
Coastal Demolition and Construction of Tampa, Fla., was issued a stop-work order Jan. 18 after county officials discovered the company was tearing down the ArrMaz Custom Chemical plant building on John Meeks Way without the necessary permits, county administrator Gary Kubic said.
County regulations require that anyone seeking to "construct, enlarge, alter, repair, move (or) demolish ... the occupancy of a building or structure" must apply for and obtain a permit from the county.
Kubic said the county also is alarmed that the owners have not allowed S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control representatives onto the property to perform environmental tests.
A DHEC spokesman in Columbia said the agency has initiated "some enforcement action" against the property owners but declined to elaborate.
"Once we are pursuing enforcement action, we don't typically discuss the particulars or say more than that," said Adam Myrick, DHEC spokesman. "It's a very convoluted situation. It's going to take some time to straighten out."
Attempts Friday to reach company representatives were unsuccessful.
County regulations do not require that sites undergo an environmental assessment, but Kubic said DHEC officials are routinely consulted before granting permits.
"Whenever someone comes in to apply for a permit, we notify DHEC and rely on information from the state to decide whether we grant the permit or not," Kubic said.
Until DHEC inspects the site, the county will not issue the paperwork the company needs to continue, Kubic said.
"This is not a typical site for demolition," Kubic said. "There needs to be heightened awareness and concern for the environment. We have a school near there, neighbors, agriculture and irrigation, and this process needs to be made public.
"Is the well clean? Is there asbestos? I just don't know, but considering the function of that site, there needs to be careful evaluation before anything is destroyed."
County Councilman Gerald Dawson, who represents the area near the plant, said he shares Kubic's concerns and wants the county and DHEC officials to be able to inspect the site.
"That's got to be priority number one," Dawson said.
In the meantime, Kubic said the site will be monitored closely by the county.
"We have been taking pictures of the site regularly to document whether our stop-work order is being obeyed," Kubic said.
According to county property tax records, Coastal Demolition and Construction purchased the plant in April 2009 for $550,000.