Philip Services Corporation - Overview

(AKA ThermalKEM) 

The Philip Services Corporation (PSC) Site is located at 2324 Vernsdale Road in Rock Hill, South Carolina. The facility property consists of approximately 44.5 acres of former industrial property on the west side of Wildcat Creek. PSC also owned approximately 91 acres of undeveloped woodland on the east side of Wildcat Creek. The facility operated from approximately 1966 until 2003 as a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facility. During its operational history, the facility operated under several different names including Quality Drum Company, Industrial Chemical Company, Stablex South Carolina, Inc., American NuKEM Corporation, ThermalKEM, Inc., Petro-Chem, and Philip Services Corporation.     

In 2001, PSC notified DHEC of its intent to close the facility. A closure plan was approved in November 2002.  However, in June 2003 prior to completion of the closure, PSC filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The United States Bankruptcy Court appointed Restoration & Redevelopment Solutions, LLC (R&R) as the custodial trustee. As part of the bankruptcy plan and the December 2003 bankruptcy settlement between DHEC, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), R&R, and the PSC debtors, a custodial trust account was established to provide partial funding for response actions, including investigation and remediation actions, and closure and post-closure actions selected and approved by DHEC. On October 5, 2022, a memorandum of agreement between DHEC and EPA established DHEC as the lead governmental agency for these response actions.  

Since becoming the lead agency for environmental management responsibilities in 2003, DHEC has upgraded and continued to operate and maintain the existing groundwater treatment system and has conducted a comprehensive Remedial Investigation (RI) and Feasibility Study (FS) to determine the full extent and nature of contamination and evaluate the most appropriate cleanup alternatives for contamination found in soil and groundwater.  DHEC issued a Proposed Plan for remediation of the site in August 2014 and provided a public meeting for interested parties.  DHEC issued a Record of Decision (ROD) in June 2016 detailing the final plans for cleanup of the site. 

In addition to continuing to perform various cleanup activities, DHEC has been negotiating a settlement with a very large group of potentially responsible parties (PRPs) known as the Philip Services Site PRP Group (PRP Group). Early in 2022, DHEC, the PRP Group, and the United States of America (on behalf of federal PRPs) agreed to terms of a Settlement and Consent Decree (Settlement) that will require the settling parties to reimburse DHEC approximately $4.4 million of DHEC’s past costs and perform additional cleanup activities that are estimated to cost approximately $24 million. A public comment period for the settlement was initially established from January 28 through February 28, 2022.  At the request of the public, DHEC is held a community meeting on Tuesday March 22, 2022, at the Saluda Trail Middle School. DHEC extended the comment period through May 6, 2022. DHEC filed the Settlement with the federal court for approval.  

Once the Settlement is finalized, the PRP Group, with oversight from DHEC, will begin work at the site to design and implement the final remedies for the cleanup of contaminated soil and groundwater as determined in the ROD.   

The cleanup technologies identified in the ROD and outlined in the Statement of Work associated with the Settlement Agreement include: 

  • Excavation and offsite disposal of soil in certain areas. 
  • Multi-Phase Extraction (MPE) in portions of the property where liquid phase hydrocarbon is present. 
  • In situ thermal-enhanced treatment in select areas to treat soil and groundwater for volatile organic compounds (VOCs). 
  • Hydraulic containment of groundwater. 
  • Monitored natural attenuation (MNA) in areas determined necessary after active treatment has been completed. 
  • Groundwater and surface water monitoring. 
  • Institutional Controls.  

All these technologies are proven and effective methods to treat contaminants like those existing in soil and groundwater at the PSC Site.  In situ thermal-enhanced treatment (thermal) is a very effective and efficient method that uses heat to reduce VOC contaminant concentrations in soil and groundwater.   Heat can be applied to the subsurface to treat contaminated soil and groundwater by several different methods.  The method for thermal treatment at the PSC site will be determined during the remedial design process.  The only potential impact to the surrounding community from any of these treatment systems could be some increased truck traffic for the delivery of necessary equipment and some increased noise during implementation of the remedy.