Chester County chemical plant spills substance in local stream


RICHBURG, SC (FOX 46 WJZY) — A milky stream could be seen behind Specialty Polymers in Chester County on Friday after a tank overflowed, spilling an acrylic-based product into the water. 

The pictures a viewer sent us are even worse, showing very cloudy water on Hooper Creek. 

“Corporately we certainly have an issue we need to resolve, and we will,” said Specialty Polymers sales manager Steve Dobson.

Dobson admitted specialty polymers messed up last Saturday when a tank overflowed, spilling a product made of an acrylic emulsion, which Dobson says is non-hazardous; it’s the same material you’d see in water based house paint. 

Company officials say the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control let them know on Monday that the spill had reached beyond their property. They say they immediately began cleanup and letting neighbors know what’s going on

“When you’ve got a creek of white water running through your property and your cows are going and drinking from that water, it’s a very serious situation,” said Jason Ream who lives in Chester. 

Ream sent us photos of the stream, which he says were sent to him by someone who lives in Richburg. 

“You don’t want to see chemicals like that pouring into the water, you don’t want to see creeks with runoff running into creeks into property,” Ream said. “We drink this water too and we don’t want to do anything that messes that up.” 

An official with Chester County emergency management confirms the drinking water on the municipal system is safe. 

We wanted to find out the environmental impact of all of this, but South Carolina DHEC, the agency that regulates that, said they don’t yet have that information. 

“We do a lot of work internally to make sure this doesn’t happen and clearly an issue occurred that we need to resolve,” they say. In a statement issued to FOX 46, the company also said: 

The Department received a complaint on 11/13/2017 and conducted an investigation at Specialty Polymers the same day. The plant had a release on 11/11/2017. The material released was an acrylic emulsion which is similar to water-based, house paint with no pigment. The plant had taken action on 11/11/2017 to stop and contain the release and determined there was no known offsite impact at that time.
It appears that due to a rain event the evening of 11/12/2017, residual paint product from the spill did discharge into Hopper Creek.  This was identified on the morning of 11/13/2017. The plant has hired a contractor to clean up the release and made changes to its stormwater discharge to prevent releases like this in the future.  The plant has sampled (and will continue to sample) the creek for the paint product and its constituents.  DHEC also sampled the creek.  Based on the information presented, there will be no likely impact to human health or the environment. Specialty Polymers and DHEC continue to monitor the area.

Specialty Polymers is now paying for the clean-up and vows not to let it happen again. 

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