DHEC: No risk of health impacts from chemicals buried on Winnsboro property

Criminal investigation is ongoing

WINNSBORO – In an update on a story that broke in February 2023 by The Voice on a criminal investigation of chemicals found buried on a property in downtown Winnsboro, the Department of Health and Environment Control (DHEC) reports that at no time was anyone at risk of negative health impacts from these materials since the material was buried and there were no indications of any impacts to groundwater or drinking water.

DHEC was notified in November 2022 about the possibility of unknown materials buried at a vacant lot on West Palmer Street, within the town limits of Winnsboro. The information was turned over to DHEC’s Office of Law Enforcement for investigation.   

In February 2023, DHEC’s Office of Law Enforcement, along with the Bureau of Land and Waste Management, used a contractor to begin excavating the site. During excavation, two containers were found that contained partial liquid contents. DHEC collected samples from both containers and from the soil beneath them to be analyzed.   

The following is a summary of DHEC laboratory results 

A number of chemicals were detected in the liquids found inside the containers, as well as in the soil sample. The chemical that most likely contributed to a foul odor was an herbicide identified as 2-4-D. This chemical, as well as its decomposition products, have low odor thresholds, meaning humans can smell these substances at very low concentrations.  2-4-D is an herbicide that has been in use since the 1940s to kill weeds. There are currently more than 1,000 weed-control products that contain 2-4-D that are approved for use and sold in the United States. Chromium and a low pH also were detected in the liquid samples from the containers. Skin contact, inadvertent ingestion, and inhalation are the potential exposure routes of concern, but there was no risk of exposure while the containers were buried. Based on laboratory results, the liquids in both containers are classified as hazardous waste.  

Chemical odors 

Unusual and sometimes unpleasant odors can often be the first indication to people of a chemical that’s out of place. In most instances, odors are detected at concentrations much lower than those associated with an increased risk of health concerns. As always, DHEC encourages residents to report to their local DHEC Environmental Affairs Office any unusual odors that seem out of place so that agency staff can follow-up and address the concern.  

Not a drinking water or skin contact concern 

DHEC hasn’t identified any evidence of impact to groundwater or drinking water from the materials within the containers, nor any opportunity for the public to have been exposed to contaminated soil. 

Disposal of the chemicals 

DHEC will ensure the materials are properly disposed of at a permitted facility, following all applicable laws and regulations. The hazardous waste has been properly sealed and is awaiting removal from the site for proper disposal. 

State and federal laws and regulations require all types of waste materials, whether hazardous or not, to be properly disposed of in order to protect people’s health and the environment. 

“We appreciate the support of local authorities as we investigated this report of buried materials, as well as the patience of nearby residents while the excavation occurred. DHEC staff worked to keep nearby residents informed of our actions, and we have determined that at no time was anyone at risk of negative health impacts from these materials,” the report stated.  

DHEC has the authority to take action against people or entities that improperly manage or dispose of hazardous waste. The investigation into the responsible party that buried these materials is ongoing, and DHEC will provide more information as the investigation continues. 

Contact us: (803) 767-5711 | P.O. Box 675, Blythewood, SC 29016 | [email protected]