Originally created 07/20/02

Judge halts Barnwell chemical plant shutdown



COLUMBIA - An administrative law judge Friday rescinded the emergency shutdown order issued by the state's health and environmental agency on a Barnwell chemical plant.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control on June 25 had issued an emergency order to shut down Starmet CMI Inc. Judge Marvin Kittrell ruled Friday that the department did not successfully justify the emergency order.

"The Department simply failed to show any discharge or action at the facility which creates an immediate risk of harm to the citizens in the community or the employees at the plant," Judge Kittrell wrote. "The emergency order consists only of a general conclusion that such a risk exists. It gives no specific history of any discharges or pollution, nor was such evidence produced at the hearing."

DHEC argued that security was lax at the plant. DHEC officials said the facility, which processes radioactive material including uranium, has material that can be used to make a "dirty bomb." Starmet attorney John Hodge argued there was no specific terrorist threat.

Although Starmet's license does not require security guards at the facility, Judge Kittrell ruled that there is justification for them to be hired by the company.

The department also said the groundwater at the site has been contaminated and the facility's overall maintenance and management was poor.

But groundwater contamination was not of great concern to the agency until April or May, Judge Kittrell wrote. DHEC then took several samples.