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S.C. Campground Denies Waste Treatment Facility

December 21, 2011 by · Comments Off on S.C. Campground Denies Waste Treatment Facility 

The Spartanburg, S.C., County Council voted unanimously Tuesday (Dec. 20) morning to change the county’s unified land management ordinance. One of the changes will block TreatMed from opening a medical waste treatment facility in a vacant building near a local campground.

New Channel 7 reported that council member David Britt says TreatMed can set up its business elsewhere in the county as long as their building conforms to new setback requirements.

TreatMed President David Squalli calls the code change “unfair” and says it’s the result of leaders caving to pressure from a public that does not understand his business. He says he will pursue legal action because he has already invested money in the property and did so with the blessing of county planners.

DHEC could still approve TreatMed’s permit application but is not expected to do so since one of the requirements is that the applicant complies with local codes.

TreatMed applied for an infectious waste permit with the Department of Health and Environmental Control. The company, based in Greenville, uses pressurized steam to sterilize medical waste from hospitals and doctors’ offices. In 2010, it purchased the vacant building on Franke Drive, giving the county planning department notice of its plans to open the facility. In September 2011, the county sent a letter stating that the plans for the building “do not conflict with the county’s land management ordinance” and that TreatMed would be issued a county development permit after it receives approval from DHEC.

At a public hearing in October, residents of Cannons Campground voiced concern about the safety of hauling waste to the facility. TreatMed officials say their process is safe and environmentally-friendly, and if an accident were to occur on the road, a third-party company would be called immediately to begin clean-up.

County council member Britt says changes to the ordinance were not aimed at TreatMed.

“We were already in the process of updating our land use codes and our solid waste ordinance in August, before all the discussion about TreatMed really started,” says Britt. “I know the timing doesn’t look good, but we are not doing this in response to TreatMed.”

However, Britt also admitted that he is against TreatMed’s proposal to open up shop in the Cannons Campground community.

“Those people have some real concerns, and who can blame them after what they’ve been through with Hoechst Celanese?” says Britt. “They need a voice and I am their voice and I’m going to fight against this. I told David Squalli and his attorney a long time ago that this is not the place or the time to do this.”

Squalli says if the changes are approved, the county can expect a legal fight.

“This is not just and is not fair,” says Squalli. “I am going to fight this all the way. Because if they can do this now and get away with it, what’s to stop them from doing it to another business that has done things the right way?”

South Carolina Agency Reaffirms Water Quality Safety

November 29, 2011 by · Comments Off on South Carolina Agency Reaffirms Water Quality Safety 

Cannon’s Campground residents in Spartanburg, S.C., were again assured by state officials that the drinking water in their community is safe and groundwater contamination from the former Hoechst Celanese plant does not pose a public health threat, nor is it linked to dozens of cancer cases in the community.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) held a second community meeting Monday (Nov. 28) to address residents’ concerns. About 50 people attended, the Spartanburg Herald Journal reported.

Attendees were updated on findings from sediment samples from Cherokee Creek. Samples confirmed the presence of the chemical dowtherm, but officials do not know where the chemical came from.

PCBs, or Polychlorinated Biphenyls, man-made organic chemicals with a “range of toxicity” that were banned in 1979, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website, also were found. Officials have asked Celanese to develop an assessment plan on the PCBs.

Several other compounds at trace levels were found in the sediment. Those chemicals could be from groundwater plumes coming up and leaching into sediment or a possible spill.

Results of water samples from 19 residential wells were discussed.

Ken Taylor, director of division of site assessment, remediation and revitalization with DHEC, said they found low levels of 1,4-Dioxane in five wells. Taylor said the Environmental Protection Agency does not have a drinking water standard for the chemical but suggests a risk base number of 670 parts per trillion, he said.

One woman questioned what to do now that chloroform was detected in her well water. She said no chloroform was found when it was tested three months ago.

Chloroform is an unknown human carcinogen but has been shown to cause cancer in animals, an official said.

South Carolina Agency to Discuss Community’s Water

November 28, 2011 by · Comments Off on South Carolina Agency to Discuss Community’s Water 

South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) representatives will discuss the results of samples taken from residential water wells in the Cannon’s Campground community and address concerns at a community meeting.

The meeting will be held from 6 to 8 tonight (Nov. 28)  at the Mary Black Hospital Conference Center, the Spartanburg Herald Journal reported

The former Hoechst Celanese plant dumped chemicals from polyester manufacturing on its site for decades that contaminated groundwater. Some residents think the groundwater contamination is linked to dozens of cancer cases in the area surrounding the former plant.

The company began the cleanup of groundwater contamination — “expected to continue for decades to come” — around 1980 with DHEC’s oversight.

DHEC officials told residents at an August meeting there was not an abnormal clustering of cancer, and residential water wells were not contaminated. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a federal agency, later agreed with DHEC’s findings.

“We still don’t see any reason to believe there is an ongoing public health threat associated with the Hoechst Celanese facility in (the Cannon’s Campground) community,” DHEC spokesman Adam Myrick said in a phone interview.

Monday’s meeting will bring residents “up to speed” on DHEC’s latest findings, as well as answer questions, address concerns and exchange information, he said.

Water was sampled from 19 wells. Twelve wells had “absolutely no odd detections,” Myrick said. Seven wells might have had contaminants in trace amounts or below a maximum contaminant level and within state or federal drinking water standards, he said.

Owners already have received the results, he added.

Click here to read an earlier story about the case.

Feds Find No Cancer Link to Carolina Campground

November 11, 2011 by · Comments Off on Feds Find No Cancer Link to Carolina Campground 

A federal agency agrees with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s (DHEC) finding that cancer cases in a Spartanburg County community near a former polyester fiber manufacturing plant do not represent a greater-than-normal incidence of the disease.

DHEC asked the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to scrutinize DHEC’s conclusions, which were made in a report released earlier this year. The study was in response to concerns raised by residents of the Cannon’s Campground community. Some residents think there is a link between dozens of cancer cases in the area and past dumping of environmental contaminants at the former Hoechst Celanese site, the Spartanburg Herald Journal reported.

“We wanted to make sure that we had another set of eyes look at our information,” DHEC spokesman Adam Myrick said.

ATSDR, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, stated in a letter to DHEC late last month that it concurred with the state agency’s conclusion that the cancer cases were not out of the ordinary for the years examined.

“ATSDR concurs with DHEC’s conclusion that there were no increases in cancer incidence or mortality among residents of the 29307 ZIP code between 1996 and 2007,” the letter states.

Advocate Disagrees with Findings

But an advocate for the community continues to take issue with the agencies’ finding.

Greenville resident Lisa Nielsen, who spent much of her life in Cannon’s Campground and has become an advocate for community members affected by cancer, maintains that the methodology used by DHEC in reaching its conclusions was flawed. She said the area examined by DHEC is much too large to provide a true picture of cancer rates in Cannon’s Campground.

“They took a 47-square-mile area to look at an area that’s about five square miles,” she said.

DHEC examined cancer incidence data and cancer mortality for the 29307 ZIP code, which includes the former plant site and Cannon’s Campground. The study used the most recent five-year period of available data, 2003-07, and all available data from the South Carolina Central Cancer Registry for 1996-2007.

Using the entire ZIP code for the study followed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for responding to community cancer concerns, according to DHEC.

The American Cancer Society estimates that one in two men and one in three women will have cancer throughout his or her lifetime.

DHEC’s testing began following inquiries from Nielsen.

Background

For decades, contaminants used in the polyester manufacturing process were dumped on the plant site off Hoechst Drive and Interstate 85 by the company after the plant opened in the mid-1960s. A DHEC spokesman has said the dumping occurred before the onset of most environmental regulations.

Cleanup of the groundwater contamination by Celanese — with DHEC oversight — began around 1980 and is expected to continue for decades to come.

American Hoechst owned the plant in the years when much of the dumping occurred. That company merged with Celanese in 1987, and Celanese sold the plant in 1998, a company spokesman has said.

Celanese was spun off from Hoechst a year later.

In the letter to DHEC, an ATSDR epidemiologist stated that the federal agency “supports DHEC’s ongoing efforts to monitor the progress and effectiveness of the environmental cleanup currently taking place at the former Hoechst Celanese site.”

DHEC first presented the results of its study of the cancer cases in Cannon’s Campground at an August public meeting in Spartanburg.

DHEC last week announced a project to look for evidence of historical or ongoing environmental contamination along the Pacolet River and Kelsey Creek in Spartanburg County. The project is scheduled to start later this month and will entail collection of sediment and surface water samples along 15 miles of stream along the Pacolet. The Environmental Protection Agency will assist DHEC with the testing.

Nielsen said the timing of the project is suspicious.

“I am of the feeling and absolute belief that yes there is a cancer cluster in the community based on the fact that the EPA announced testing,” she said.

Firm Represents 70 Families

The law firm of Columbia attorney Dick Harpootlian, who after the August DHEC community meeting called for the state Attorney General’s Office to launch a criminal probe into groundwater contamination near Cannon’s Campground, is developing a civil lawsuit against Hoechst and Celanese.

Harpootlian’s firm is representing more than 70 families from Cannon’s Campground.

Harpootlian, the chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, stated in an August letter to Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office that he has spoken with several former plant employees who said it was company policy to illegally dispose of chemicals used in the manufacturing process.

A Celanese spokesman has said that the company is unaware of any facts that support Harpootlian’s claims.

RV Park and Campground Briefs

August 8, 2011 by · Comments Off on RV Park and Campground Briefs 

ONTARIO

From the Standard Freeholder, Cornwall, Ontario:

The St. Lawrence Parks Commission has seen a 22% bump, compared to last year, in the number of overnight campsites that have been reserved up until late July.

“Camping is doing very, very well,” says Susan Le Clair, corporate marketing and development officer for the commission. “There seems to be a resurgence in interest in camping. It provides families with a really economical way to take a vacation.”

She also acknowledged that day use has been down “a little” due to the wet spring.

Le Clair thinks last week’s warm weather and the long weekend will help recoup the day use numbers.

The warm summer weather is the main credit for the increase in camper nights, plus a “really great product,” says Le Clair.

IOWA

From the Associated Press:

Iowa officials have reopened the campground at Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa.

The campground had been closed for almost two months because of flooding along the nearby Missouri River. An official with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says the campground was prepared for flooding but water never reached the campground.

The Missouri River rose to record levels because of higher releases of water from upstream reservoirs. The releases are being scaled back but the river is expected to remain high into fall.

SOUTH CAROLINA

From the Spartanburg Herald Journal:

The law firm of Columbia attorney Dick Harpootlian on Friday (Aug. 5) hand delivered a letter to Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office calling for a criminal investigation into groundwater contamination at the former Hoechst Celanese manufacturing plant in Spartanburg.

Harpootlian and another Columbia attorney, Bert Louthian, are developing a civil lawsuit against the now split-off companies on behalf of more than 70 families from the Cannon’s Campground community.

The letter accuses Hoechst Celanese of illegally and improperly disposing of several dangerous chemicals.

Many families in the community blame the company’s dumping around the former polyester fiber plant site for dozens of cancer cases in the decades since the practice began in the mid-1960s.

The community is located about a mile from the plant site, according to Celanese.

South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control officials told about 150 people gathered at a community meeting at Mary Black Hospital Thursday night that the cases do not represent an abnormal clustering of the disease, and that the lingering groundwater contamination at the plant site poses no current public health risk.

UTAH

From the Associated Press:

Crews have contained a 660-acre wildfire and two campgrounds are now open on the Great Salt Lake’s Antelope Island.

Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands spokesman Jason Curry says the fire was started by lightning Thursday night (Aug. 4) and quickly spread.

Curry says crews from Davis County and Hill Air Force Base had the fire under control by Friday morning.

The fire forced the evacuations of about 100 campers from two campgrounds to other parts of the island. The campgrounds were reopened Friday morning.

CALIFORNIA

From The Sun, San Bernardino:

A river bottom caught on fire Sunday (Aug. 7) in Victorville, Calif., burning seven acres of brush and prompting a recreational vehicle park evacuation.

The fire was reported at 5:06 p.m. northeast of the intersection of 15 Freeway and E Street, said San Bernardino County fire Dispatch Supervisor Sue Hood.

No homes were threatened, but firefighters evacuated the nearby unidentified RV park as a precaution. Residents have since been allowed to return to their homes.

The fire was contained at 6:55 p.m. Firefighters remained at the scene through the night to extinguish hot spots.

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