Cleanup Of Lead, Arsenic At Charleston Plant Begins

Work begins next month on cleaning the lead and arsenic-laced ground and water at the site of an old fertilizer plant in Charleston, the fifth such site in the area to be cleaned in seven years.

The Environmental Protection Agency held a public meeting Thursday on plans for the $8.5 million cleanup of what is called the Columbia Nitrogen site, where there was a fertilizer manufacturing plant for almost seven decades.

The site is located just off the Ashley River in the neck area of Charleston, a narrow stretch of land between the Cooper and Ashley Rivers where Interstate 26 snakes its way to downtown Charleston.

Ken Mallary, the remedial project manager for the EPA, said that the cleanup of the 33-acre site is expected to cost around $8.5 million. The work will begin in October and is expected to be completed sometime next year.

A fertilizer plant operated on the site under two owners from 1905 through 1972. The structures were demolished in 1980 and the land was later used as a storage yard for shipping containers. The land has sat empty for a decade.

Money for the cleanup will not come from the taxpayers, but from former and current owners of the site. Mallary said that during the past seven years or so, four similar fertilizer plant sites in the area have been cleaned.

Beginning in the late 1800s, phosphate was mined a few miles to the northwest in the area of what is now Ashley Phosphate road. At the time, phosphate was barged down the river or brought by railroad to the fertilizer plants.

In all about 81,000 tons, or 53,000 cubic yards, of soil will be removed from the site, in some areas to a depth of 6 feet. In addition, about 1,500 cubic yards of sediment in the tidal area will also be removed.

The soil will be taken to Dorchester County landfill, and the soil with the highest levels of the chemicals will be treated on site before being taken to the landfill.

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