Spartanburg Sanitary Sewer to remove PCBs from water and sludge by January

Posted in: Water Contamination
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Published: Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 7:21 p.m.

Spartanburg Sanitary Sewer is expected to have PCBs removed from 1.2 million gallons of contaminated water and sludge by January.

Rebecca West, chief operating officer, told the sanitary sewer district commission during its meeting Tuesday that the contaminated sludge and wastewater was contained in 43 frac tanks, which each hold 20,000 gallons.

The sewer district received approval from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control and Environmental Protection Agency on its cleanup plan. The sewer district now is in the process of removing the polychlorinated biphenyls and treating the water before it goes to the treatment plant.

The PCB-contaminated sludge will be transported to an approved Alabama landfill. The frac tanks, which the sewer district has rented, must be decontaminated before they’re returned.

The entire cost of the cleanup is expected to be $2.5 million, West said.

The Upstate has been battling PCB contamination since the summer when the chemical was discovered in several Upstate sewer treatment plants. The chemical was previously used in a variety of commercial and industrial applications and has been linked to various illnesses, including cancer. It was banned from production in the U.S. in 1979.

PCBs were commonly used as insulators in power lines, capacitors, home appliances, fluorescent ballasts and as a sealant.

Spartanburg Water Chief Executive Officer Sue Schneider told commissioners the criminal investigation into the source of the contamination is ongoing. DHEC and the S.C. Law Enforcement Division are leading those investigations.

In addition, Schneider has met representatives from the offices of U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy and Sen. Lindsay Graham to determine whether federal financial assistance may be available.

The sewer commission also has modified requirements it first approved in October after hearing from grease trap haulers that the new requirements were too cumbersome and required additional paperwork.

West said at the commission’s October meeting, they required all grease trap owners, mostly restaurants, to secure their traps to prevent any additional contamination. In October, the commission gave grease trap owners two options: to self-test for PCB contamination or bring sludge to the Fairforest facility where it would be combine tested with other material.

West said the changes required the grease trap owners to provide documentation on when the load had been picked up and tested, but the process was too cumbersome for grease trap owners and haulers.

Now, the sewer district will provide PCB testing and sampling at its Fairforest facility to clear up any confusion.

The commission also approved an increase in grease disposal fees from $60 to $125, which will be charged four times a year, and will go into effect on Feb. 1, 2014. The increased fee will pay for sampling and testing of grease and oil.

West said sewer district officials will meet with those affected to explain the changes and fee increase. Haulers, who were at Tuesday’s meeting, said they agreed with the change.

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