Bending to the will of a handful of residents Tuesday night, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control has agreed to extend its public comment period on the agency’s plans to clean up the former ThermalKem site in York County until the end of October.
Tuesday’s meeting had initially marked the start of a 30-day period that would have ended September 26, but regulators voluntarily added another 30 days to the window after a nearly three-hour long presentation and question-and-answer period.
The agency has spent the better part of the last decade examining the former chemical waste plant southwest of Rock Hill, where toxic chemicals have contaminated the soil and groundwater beneath the 44-acre site at the corner of Robertson and Vernsdale Roads.
Tuesday night, state regulators explained the process leading up to now, outlining a half-dozen various proposals to clean up the site, ranging from $29 million to $43.2 million.
While those proposals are not finalized, the public health agency opened a typical 30-day window to hear feedback on its plans and help uncover any additional details that may assist in the cleanup.
The health department’s Land and Waste Management division Tuesday identified the $35.9 million plan as the agency’s ‘preferred alternative,’ one that would result in the excavation of some contaminated soil, heat treatment of other soils, chemical treatment of some deeper soil nearing the bedrock and ground and surface monitoring.
Project Manager Lucas Berresford explained that the remediation program would be funded through a settlement package between various vendors that brought materials to the ThermalKem site to be disposed while the plant was in operation.
Christi Cox, the republican nominee for the district five seat for York County Council, said the process thus far has not been transparent.
Cox said despite asking for written notice from DHEC on the progress at the ThermalKem site, she did not hear from the agency prior to the meeting
“I believe the public deserves more information, they deserve more notice. The information was not as available to the public like it should have been.” Cox said. “We need to do a better job of getting information to the public. ”
Cox pointed to an ongoing lawsuit over permitting for a new landfill less than a mile from the ThermalKem site, saying that many of her future constituents have little faith in the public health agency.
“Here is how do we develop the trust between DHEC to trust that they will clean up the property; and at the same time they’re dumping almost right beside it, Cox said. “Our community deserves better than that.”