Sampit Research Synthesis

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Oil Spill Cleanup underway on Sampit River in Georgetown – Allyson Floyd


From the article:

Oil spill from ArcelorMittal Steel Mill

Removed 500 gallons of oil-water mixture

Steel mill was responsive to spill and coordinated cleanup efforts



The steel mill on the Sampit has previously been a major polluter. While steps were taken to mitigate the oil spill, the fact remains that accidents occur. There is no guarantee that further industrial development will not have the same problem.




Town Agonizes Over Dioxin Levels – Peter Applebome



From the article:

Paper mills produced dioxin – which has since been identified as a carcinogen (1997)

Dioxins are persistent and bioaccumulators – meaning they can be present in fish and other wildlife

The International Paper mill on the Sampit had the highest emissions of dioxins out of 104 paper mills studied

At the time, no dioxin standards had been developed for effluent discharge from industrial sources

IP cut dioxin emissions – too little too late – still will be in water

“We’ve won some cases latterly, and you think you’re making some progress then something like this comes along and you realize you didn’t even know what the problem really was.” – James Chandler, environmental lawyer



1972: NPDES developed – regulates standards for discharges into waterways through permitting

1984:  Ambient WQ criteria and Health Effects Assessment for dioxins from EPA

1985/1986: high dioxin levels detected in Sampit River and others from paper mills

1985: Drinking Water Criteria and Final Health Assessment for dioxins from EPA

1997: Dioxin identified as a carcinogen



No standards for the amount of dioxin being discharged had been developed previous to the issue being detected. This is similar to the current issue in NC with GenX. While a harmful pollutant may exist in effluent, it may not be regulated. Even those that are regulated could still enter our waterways. Dioxin is persistent; despite production being reduced or halted, it will still exist in the waterways. Impacts from industry along the Sampit River are unpredictable and potentially harmful.



Water Quality Analysis of Effluent Discharge on the Sampit River from International Paper Mill in Georgetown, South Carolina – Coastal Carolina University



From the study report:

Study performed by students at CCU to investigate potential pollutants from the IP plant in Georgetown.

Study was inconclusive based on lack of samples and difficulty in identifying a specific source.

Confirmed results of previous inconclusive study by the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI) that IP could not be identified as a major source.

Pollutants from paper mill processes include: biological oxygen demands (BODs), chemical oxygen demands (CODs), absorbable organic halogens (AOX), dioxins, and nitrates. All of these can lead to water quality issues. Reduced oxygen levels can pose problems for fish and other aquatic species. Excess nitrates can lead to accelerated algae and plant growth leading to blooms and eventually fish kills. Dioxins are bioaccumulators which are stored in the tissues of fish and can then be passed to humans through consumption.

Conclusions of this study indicated that other anthropogenic pollutants were present possibly from IP, the steel mill, Santee Cooper Power Plants, storm water runoff, and boat pollution.

Previous lawsuits brought against IP for causing harm through polluting local waters were dismissed due to insufficient evidence.



This study, like the NCASI study before it, was inconclusive in identifying IP as the culprit in polluting the Sampit River. However, there is still evidence that anthropogenic sources have polluted the river. The presence of dioxins, nitrates, and other pollutants indicate an anthropogenic source. While industry is required to monitor and maintain standards for effluent discharge, there is still pollution present.

Anthropogenic sources occur in response to any kind of development. Land use changes are a major source of pollution for our waterways. Increase impervious surfaces, increased runoff, and the production of pollutants are all contributors to pollution.

If rezoning and developed for industrial use, there will be clearing of natural landscapes, road building, increased impervious surfaces (roads, parking lots, buildings), and effluent discharge. All of which will negatively impact the natural system of the Sampit River.




South Carolina Environmental Law Project letter – Amelia Thompson



From the letter:

Land Use plan for Georgetown County states that industrial development poses potential negative environmental impacts to water and air quality.  Water quality can be affected by industrial by discharge and runoff.

Currently zoned CP which is good because of vast amount of water and wetlands feeding into the Sampit and Pennyroyal Creek. Provide important functions of filtration and flood prevention.

Sampit is already polluted and has to contend with tidal influence which decreases natural purification.

Pristine wild allows for wildlife habitat.

Comprehensive surveys have not been completed.

No specific users identified.



Industrial development would potentially impact the Sampit River and surrounding natural areas. The area is pristine wetland and forest which provides habitat and natural functions to maintain the health of the river.

If developed, the area would lose its ability to naturally prevent flooding. This would increase the possibility of pollutants entering the waterway.

The river is already polluted and further pollution would not be advisable.

The preemptive rezoning of the parcel is premature. There are no specific users/buyers identified and no surveys have been completed to identify whether this land use is appropriate for the area. General knowledge of the area would indicate that rezoning to HI would not be an appropriate use of the land.




3V Report from Erin Hardwick Pate



From packet:

3V, the chemical producer with a plant in Georgetown, was found to have numerous violations impacting both water, groundwater, and soil through discharge.

The company entered into an the Brownfields/Voluntary Cleanup Program under CERCLA



Though the agreement with 3V does not indicate responsibility for the pollution of the site, it shows that violations have occurred there previously.

The existence of CERCLA and the Brownfields and Superfund programs indicates a major issue with land use for industry. The aftermath of industrial development can be as detrimental as the initial use. Georgetown already has this issue with the ArcelorMittal Steel Mill. Areas that have been used previously for industry are not suitable for other uses are left to deteriorate – posing greater risks to the area.




Final Environmental Impact Statement for Oil Refinery Pipeline Crossing Georgetown, South Carolina – US Army Corps of Engineers



From report:

Recognized that dredging the Sampit and installing the pipeline would impact the water quality of the Sampit River, but state that impacts would not violate any water quality standards.

Identify primary impacts would be from discharged waste water into the river. Suggests that a significant increase in pollutants would occur and would impact the sediments near the outfall.

Acknowledge that while mitigation would drastically decrease impacts, there would still be potential impacts even from accidents like oil spills in addition to the impacts caused by construction and use of the plant.

“Runoff and small unavoidable handling losses are chronic pollutant sources which will continue as long as the refinery is in operation.”

Sampit River was characterized as being polluted by industry and periodic dredging at the lower end, brackish nursery in the mid-river, and recreational use at the upper freshwater segment.

Impacts would be to the lower end of the river where it is already polluted and the impacts to the aquatic resources would be to “an undetermined extent.”



Impacts from the pipeline were identified and acknowledged. However, Water quality impairments were expected to no violate water quality standards required by permitting for discharge.

The impacts identified included the potential for oil spills, increased turbidity from runoff of construction and dredging, and pollutants discharged in waste water. Impacts to both water quality and sediments were of concern.

These sort of impacts can be expected with any industrial development. The potential for pollution and contamination from possible future uses of the parcel in question is likely. Any comprehensive study completed in the future should show similar potential impacts.






Proposal for Tabletop Review – Air, Wastewater, Surface Water, Groundwater Resources Pennyroyal Tract – GEL Group



From the report:


Evaluated air quality in Georgetown and found that no current industry was in exceedance of the air quality standards.

Suggest the best use at the Pennyroyal Tract would be “Synthetic Minor” which would meant that emission controls and operation restrictions would be used to limit emmissions.

A candidate would have to obtain permitting from DHEC.

Two major source emitters (IP and Winyah Station) are already present near the tract and three smaller ones (3V, SEFA, and AG) are also nearby.

The Pennyroyal Tract is 20 miles from the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge and would be under more stringent compliance requirements.

Locating a Major Source at the site would be possible but the process would be challenging, lengthy, and expensive.



Would be in the Waccamaw Capacity Use Area which is currently under a moratorium on issuing permits pending the Groundwater Management Plan (supposed to be reviewed 9/2017). A permit would likely be required for use on the tract.

Usage of the Couch Branch Aquifer has caused significant water level declines in the county. New permits may be difficult to obtain form DHEC.

While there are abundant sources for groundwater near the tract, the best aquifer may not have permitted use. Other aquifers have water that is less suitable for use and would require treatment. It would depend on the specified use.



There are potential restrictions for the Pennyroyal Tract when considering air quality standards and the availability of groundwater.

In order to meet air quality standards, industrial use would have to have restricted emissions. This would mean an expensive and lengthy endeavor for industry that produces air pollution.

Groundwater sources may not be readily available pending the Groundwater Management Plan.

While these issues do not mean that industrial development would be impossible, it might make development on the Pennyroyal Tract more costly and less efficient for certain perspective buyers. This should be considered since the position of Georgetown County is that rezoning will entice buyers to come in and grow the economy. If development there is prohibitively expensive, they will most likely not want to buy the land.