The discovery of PCBs in upstate South Carolina wastewater treatment plants has prompted the Department of Health and Environmental Control to take emergency actions to prevent a spread of the toxic chemical while it and the U.S. EPA investigate the source of the contamination. DHEC has banned the landfilling or landspreading of any biosolids, including septage, containing any level of PCBs. Small amounts of PCBs, under 50 ppm, have been allowed in the past. 

Since the original report of PCBs at three wastewater treatment plants this summer, the state has found contamination on a septage hauler’s equipment, restaurant grease traps, waste oil storage tanks, an oil recycling company truck, and in a stormwater pond that also had an oil sheen. At least one septage hauler has been ordered to temporarily cease operations due to the contamination of its equipment. 

Officials have said they are investigating reports that someone illegally discharged PCB-contaminated material into manholes and grease traps. They are also making appeals to the public and law enforcement to be on the lookout for any suspicious activity. 

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The three wastewater plants where the contamination was found are the Spartanburg Sanitary Sewer District, Renewable Water Resources in Greenville, and the Town of Lyman. Those sewer districts have tested grease traps in their service areas and each found one instance of PCB contamination. 

Some wastewater treatment plants are reportedly responding to the situation by placing new restrictions on septage haulers. Renewable Water Resources (ReWa) has confirmed that it is proposing several new regulations for haulers. Until they are approved, all septage loads are being monitored for PCBs, so deliveries are only accepted from 7:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. 

These ReWa proposed regulations will be the subject of a public hearing on Oct. 22 and are scheduled for final approval on Oct. 28:

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  • All haulers (grease and septage) will be required to obtain Environmental Cleanup Liability Insurance, or another acceptable monetary instrument, in the amount of $1.5 million. The insurance will be used to recover the additional costs related to the treatment and disposal of contaminated biosolids if it is confirmed that the contents of any hauler’s truck was contaminated with PCBs. ReWa will be listed as a beneficiary of the policy.
  • All trucks will be monitored and sampled for the presence of PCBs.
  • The receiving facilities at the Mauldin wastewater plant will be limited to 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  • Off hours dumping will be allowed on an “emergency” basis at an additional cost of $50 to cover the costs of personnel.
  • The dumping fee will be increased by $50 per load to offset the additional costs of monitoring and content analysis.
  • All manifests will clearly indicate the source(s) of septage and/or grease.
  • No co-mingled loads of grease and septage will be allowed.
  • Each truck will only be used for the single purpose of hauling grease or hauling septage, there will be no cross usage of equipment for both wastes.
  • Each grease interceptor will have locked manholes. All haulers will be required to have customer acknowledgement and permission to unlock the manhole for servicing. The customer shall sign a chain of custody document which shall remain with the truck driver and be surrendered to ReWa personnel at the time of unloading.
  • All grease haulers will undertake a statistically supported analysis of the grease interceptors they service for the presence of PCBs. The haulers shall provide a list of all the grease interceptors they service. ReWA will develop the list of grease interceptors that each hauler will be responsible for testing the contents for the presence of PCBs and reporting those results back to ReWa from a certified laboratory.

Are more stringent regulations on septage and grease haulers fair to those of your who rigidly follow the rules? Leave a comment below.


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