Originally created 09/06/98

Barrels leaking waste



SIMPSONVILLE, S.C. -- State officials say they expect to find that chemicals leaking from rusting metal drums here are in the groundwater flowing toward the Reedy River.

The 30 families in the area are in no immediate danger, since most of them get their water from the Greenville Water System, health officials said Friday.

No contamination has been found in tests of eight private wells that serve as drinking water sources for some of the families, and officials are working to identify other private wells.

The Greenville News on Thursday obtained a list of 11 chemicals found buried at the five-acre site off East Standing Springs Road. Officials have refused for more than a year to release the list.

More than 3,000 barrels have been found. The 55-gallon drums, buried 12 feet deep and stacked three high, are in various states of decay.

Cleanup already has cost more than $2 million.

Tests in 1993 and 1995 of Hammond Creek just 200 yards from the site turned up tetrachloroethene and vinyl chloride that could have come from the barrels. Vinyl chloride is classified as a human carcinogen by the Department of Health and Human Services, and tetrachloroethene can reasonably be expected to cause cancer.

The creek is not a drinking water source.

"We're doing everything in our power to address the site as effectively and safely as we can," said Angie Jones, environmental engineer with the Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Residents living east and north of the site are upstream from the groundwater flow and could not be affected, officials said.

"Obviously, we're concerned," said Leo Hurtado, father of two, who lives in Baldwin Forest. "It worries me that it's so close to this community and there has been a lack of information."

A criminal investigation is under way, but prosecutor Bob Ariail refused Friday to discuss whether the chemicals have been linked to any companies or individuals.

The property was owned by Calvin Kellett, who transferred it in 1993 to the Kellett Irrevocable Trust, records show. He said Thursday he wouldn't respond to questions.

DHEC began investigating allegations of illegal dumping at the site in 1992. In July 1997, DHEC started removing metal drums, some of which contained chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects and other serious health problems.

The department on Thursday released a list of 11 chemicals found on the property. They were: acetone, benzene, carbon tetrachloride, chromic acid, dichlorobenzene, 1,2-dichloroethene, perchloroethylene, phosphoric anhydride, toluene, trichloroethylene and xylene.

Officials believe the dumping dates back to the 1960s and might have continued until 1986, based on aerial photos of the land.