DHEC, Coast Guard investigating Sampit River oil spill

  • Thursday, March 20, 2014

A crew from HEPACO began cleaning the oil spill Wednesday evening and continued the work Thursday. Scott Harper/Times

Photos

An oil sheen could be seen in the Sampit River behind the stores on Front Street Thursday, one day after an oil spill was reported to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Coast Guard representative Marilyn Fajardo said the spill was reported at about 4 p.m. Wednesday. By 11 a.m. Thursday, more than 500 gallons of an “oil/water mixture” had been recovered Fajardo said, adding the exact amount of oil that spilled is still unknown.

The Coast Guard launched a boat when they received the call and it was determined the spill originated at ArcelorMittal Steel.

HEPACO, an oil spill response organization based in Charlotte, was called to the scene and began cleanup efforts late Wednesday.

Fajardon said ArcelorMittal has a permanent oil boom set up in the Sampit River to protect against such incidents. However, a portion of that boom got caught on a piling which created a gap that allowed the oil to enter into the river.

Fajardo said the mill shut down at 10:30 a.m. Thursday while the cleanup took place. It was scheduled to reopen after the cleanup.

She said a 50 foot section of boom was used to replace the damaged section of the mill's permanent boom. A 100 foot boom was also placed at the mill's drain pipe where the oil had discharged into the river.

No wildlife were harmed because of the spill, she said. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources is helping with the investigation.

Jim Beasley, spokesman for the Department of Health and Environmental Control, said DHEC was notified of the spill Wednesday evening.

“Our response is to make sure the cleanup is done in accordance with state regulations,” Beasley said. He said it is still unknown what caused the spill.

The spill has caught the attention of environmentalists, especially those who are also keeping an eye on other waterfront development.

Grace Gasper with the Sewee Association commented “In light of the commercial marina proposed in Bucksport, this serves as a reminder of how carefully we need consider developing surrounding areas.”

ArccelorMittal has not responded to a request for a comment.

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