As of Oct. 15, DHEC has taken the role of lead agency at the site. DHEC and EPA have been working toward a seamless transition in lead roles for several weeks. As the lead agency, DHEC will oversee the continued removal of material from the site, and DHEC will continue to work collaboratively with local, county and state partners.
DHEC’s number one priority continues to be protecting public health and the environment as the site is cleaned up and closed.
The Able Contracting, Inc. (Able) facility in Jasper County has been operating as a Recovered Material Processing Facility (RMPF). Prior to changes to the SC Solid Waste Policy & Management Act in May of 2018, facilities such as Able did not require a permit to operate.
In June of 2019, DHEC was notified of a fire in the construction and demolition debris pile belonging to Able. Fires of this type are complex and likely continue to burn deep within the material even when flames are not visible on the surface.
DHEC deployed air sensors to evaluate the levels of fine particulate matter in the smoke in the surrounding community. Based on increasing levels at the end of July, DHEC issued an Emergency Order to the company requiring immediate action to extinguish the fire. Following is a statement from our Environmental Affairs Director:
“DHEC has determined that the recent elevated levels of smoke from a fire at the Able Contracting facility located on Schinger Avenue in Ridgeland constitute an emergency requiring immediate action to protect public health,” said Myra Reece, DHEC’s Environmental Affairs Director. “DHEC issued an Emergency Order due to continued elevated air quality monitoring results along with the company’s failure to provide an adequate fire suppression plan to deal with the current fire at the facility. The Department is working closely with the residents and businesses closest to the facility to ensure they are aware of potential health impacts and find solutions to minimize exposure.”
DHEC asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to assist with air and water sampling to characterize emissions. While awaiting results from EPA monitoring, DHEC mobilized an emergency response contractor to begin efforts to extinguish the fire.
Summary of Initial Lab Data
DHEC requested assistance from the US EPA to collect air and water samples from around the fire at Able Contracting, LLC in Jasper County. Under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as Superfund, if a hazardous substance, as defined in the Act, is present along with a risk of exposure to the public, federal resources can be brought in to mitigate the exposure.
EPA data has been evaluated and identified one hazardous substance as defined by CERCLA that allows them to assist the state and county in the fire extinguishing efforts.
DHEC has maintained air sensors that detect fine particulate matter consistent with the size of smoke. Elevated levels of Particulate Matter in the area resulted in the issuance of an Emergency Order to the site owner to cease accepting material and to take immediate action to put the fire out. See the August 9 Update for additional information. Real-time data from the sensors can be found on our interactive map.
EPA continues to conduct sampling around the site for particulates as well as specific chemicals. Please refer to the EPA web page on Able Contracting Fire to obtain EPA data.
DHEC positioned air sensors that are size-selective (2.5 micron diameter and smaller) consistent with the size of particles in smoke. EPA collected air samples which looked for 76 volatile compounds, 90 semi-volatile compounds, 22 metals, formaldehyde, and asbestos in the smoke.
Acrolein is commonly found in cigarette smoke, in car exhaust as well as in smoke from wood fires (outdoors or indoors). It is not unexpected to find it when sampling any smoke from a fire and its presence does not change the precautions recommended in the DHEC Environmental Smoke Fact Sheet [Español].
Short-term exposure to acrolein may cause eyes to water and burning of the nose and throat, the same symptoms cause by smoke in general. These effects usually disappear after exposure is mitigated.
Acrolein is not known to cause cancer in humans.
EPA sample results can be found on EPA’s web page for Able Contracting Fire. Results from EPA’s water sampling conducted in the on-site well did not find elevated concentrations of the chemicals tested; however, ditch water samples as well as a sample from the nearby pond did find elevated concentrations of metals when compared with DHEC and EPA ecological guidance levels for surface water. There is no known human exposure pathway to the ditch or pond water. This is continuously being evaluated during the response.
DHEC continues to work closely with Jasper County officials on this fire.