Hazardous Chemicals in South Carolina River Traced Back to Plant

A large manufacturing plant in a suburban town is now being accused of contaminating local drinking water supplies from the lower Saluda River in South Carolina.

On Tuesday, environmentalists sued Shaw Industries, accusing the company of dumping toxic forever chemicals into the scenic waterway and the surrounding floodplain for many years. 

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs argue that the company is still dumping the pollution, which a federal court should put to an end. The company runs a major manufacturing plant for textiles, producing nylon and fiber for carpets.

Back in March, the Southern Environmental Law Center and the Congaree Riverkeeper organization threatened to file a lawsuit against Shaw Industries if it didn’t stop its dumping practices. 

One of the group’s lawyers said this week that the law center ultimately filed this lawsuit because the company never stopped discharging those forever chemicals from a pipe that’s located along the Saluda River.

The part of the lower Saluda River that’s being polluted is located above the Cayce and West Columbia drinking water systems, attorney Carl Brzorad said. They’ve even seen evidence of this pollution in the water. 

He added that some people have caught fish from the river that have also been contaminated by the plant.

As Brzorad explained:

“They are discharging PFAS directly into a drinking water source. These municipalities don’t have the advanced treatment installed that you need to remove this stuff from the source water.”

This source water starts in the lower Saluda River, which is an 11-mile stretch that extends from a dam at Lake Murray to the point where it meets up with the Broad River close to the state’s capital city of Columbia.

Where those two rivers come together, the Congaree River is formed.

The lower Saluda is considered the “jewel” of these three rivers because it has an active trout fishery as well as whitewater rapids — both things that are unusual for the central part of the state.

South Carolina has also designated it a Scenic River.

In March, officials with Shaw Industries said they had stopped using some of the PFAS treatments five years ago. They added that they were looking into whether some forever chemicals had come from their plant.

A spokeswoman added that the company was trying to address “inadvertent sources of PFAS” to resolve concerns that the public has. She added that it’s in compliance with all permits for discharging wastewater.

The facility has been in operation for more than 60 years, though Shaw Industries has been in charge of it for only the last 19.

Honeywell operated the plant at one point, and the plant is very visible to anyone who drives through the nearby community of Irmo.

Shaw Industries is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, and is one of the largest manufacturers of carpet in the world. The company has about $6 billion in sales across the world, and employs about 20,000 people.