Community, chemical plant officials discuss solutions after multiple spills
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A chemical plant in Charleston with a history of chemical spills has left members of a nearby community asking for change.
The chemical plant, Lanxess, hosted a tour of the facility and a meeting Thursday night for those who live in the Rosemont community to express their concerns and ask questions.
Those who attended the meeting discussed topics varying from community and worker safety to a proactive environmental plan for the Rosemont community.
When the most recent spill in June released a small amount of phosphorous into the air, nearby homeowners say they were not notified of the toxic chemical leak. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control said that because the incident was short in duration and had been corrected, they didn’t expect there to be any impact on residents who live nearby or to the environment.
Outdoor alarms were installed in the area back in the 90s when a fatal explosion killed nine employees.
“We don’t get any calls anymore,” longtime Rosemont community member Nancy Button said. “When they’ve had spills this year, no calls, no nothing; no one came up here to see whether we were alright.”
After Thursday’s meeting and hearing from the public, Lanxess officials said they are now working on communicating with nearby homeowners on smartphones to warn about possible spills.
“Let’s say you have a spill, just like you get the emergency weather report on your phone, they will use that technology to warn the neighbors that have iPhones about a spill at the plant,” Rep. Wendell Gilliard said.
“We applaud that because that’s the kind of thing we were urging them to do, and they now finally they admitted it,” he added.
Since 2018, multiple chemical spills have been reported at the plant. Another phosphorous leak in 2019 forced residents to shelter-in-place and briefly shut down I-26 after a fire combined with the leak, created a large plume of smoke.
With the chemical plant’s history, longtime residents say creating a stronger relationship between the Rosemount community and Lanxess with more job opportunities and programs could help.
“They should be supporting this community 100%, we’re right next door,” Button said. “Whenever something happened over there, we’re the first persons to feel what’s going on over there.”
Gilliard lived and worked in the area, and now is pushing for economic justice for the community after the continuing problems.
“We have to wait and see; this is a work in progress,” he said. “We left them with some challenges, and we left it on the table with them. There’re some things to consider.”
Officials with Lanxess provided the following statement regarding Thursday’s meeting:
We appreciate Representative Gilliard’s continued time and attention on our operations, especially during today’s meeting with our team and community leaders in Charleston. By lending his unique insights and community perspectives, and by helping us to better connect with our neighbors, we are confident that we can improve our outreach efforts and earn the trust of all involved stakeholders.
Nothing is more important to us than a safely operating site – for our employees, our neighbors, and the environment. We understand the concerns expressed by members of the Rosemont community, and we are focused on finding ways to better communicate with all of our neighbors, particularly on matters relating to site or community safety.
We look forward to continuing the dialogue with Rep. Gilliard, SC DHEC and our neighboring community members as we strive to continually improve our facility and safely operate in the North Charleston community.
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