Report: 25 spills from Charleston chemical plant over 32 years

A chemical plant in Charleston has a history of spilling toxic chemicals, according to a report received through the Freedom of Information Act request.
Published: Aug. 16, 2023 at 10:50 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 17, 2023 at 4:19 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A chemical plant in Charleston has a history of spilling toxic chemicals, according to a report received through the Freedom of Information Act request from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Ownership of the plant located at 2151 King Street Ext. has changed over the years:

  • Albright and Wilson recorded two spills between 1991 – 1996
  • Rhodia recorded 12 spills between 2005 and 2012
  • Solvay recorded three spills between 2016 and 2017
  • Lanxess recorded eight spills between 2018 and now

Live 5 News requested more information after the most recent spill in June released a small amount of phosphorous into the air with nearby homeowners saying they were not notified of the toxic chemical leak

Noteworthy incidents at the plant include a fatal explosion that killed nine employees in 1991 and a chemical spill in 2019 that 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.

The current plant owner, Lanxess, acquired the property in 2018. Since then, the spills from the plant have included the following chemicals: phosphorous, ethylene dichloride, 1,2-dichloroethane, sodium hydroxide and chlorine.

The release of these chemicals can affect humans in different ways but are all considered harmful to humans.

For example, ingestion of phosphorous causes severe vomiting and diarrhea. Other symptoms of severe poisoning can include death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Just down the road from Lanxess, the historic Rosemont neighborhood is home to families and the elderly.

“I remain highly concerned regarding this chemical plant and these chemical releases that have been occurring,” one nearby homeowner, Tyler Dugas, says. “It scares me because we don’t really know what are the detrimental adverse health effects that these are having on us.”

Officials with DHEC said that if there were ever an issue at this facility or any other facility in the state and it had the potential to impact people’s health or the environment, immediate notifications and actions would take place to protect the nearby community and facility employees.

“It’s scary, because I see people all day with respiratory issues, and we don’t really know what we’re facing and what these chemical releases are potentially doing to our bodies,” Dugas says. “The long-term impacts might not affect us right now, but 10 years down the road, who knows what we’re going to be dealing with.”

Lanxess says they are continually working to improve their facility and safely operate in the community.

To read previous statements from Laxness about the continuing spills, click here.

DHEC also said the following in response to the newly released report:

From the past five years, eight of the 10 incidents met the requirements for being reported to EPA and DHEC, as we are oversight agencies, and those incidents were all reported appropriately by the facility. Two of the 10 incidents (May 24, 2022, and March 15, 2023) did not meet the reportable quantity (RQ) threshold and weren’t required to be reported to EPA or DHEC. Information about the reporting requirements for facilities such as Lanxess is available by clicking here.

While there is not a public notification requirement for these types of releases, DHEC is currently working with Lanxess and community members to establish a new methodology the facility can implement as standard protocol for keeping nearby residents aware of any incidents, even though most incidents or releases remain onsite and don’t have any off-site impacts. Lanxess can provide more information on its efforts to update public notification measures.When we receive questions from the public about an incident at Lanxess -- or any other facility we regulate in the state -- we are happy to provide the information we have. Similarly, we know that Lanxess responds to questions from residents as they are received. Additionally, if it’s helpful, the National Response Center provides to the public spreadsheets of every incident report it receives from facilities, available here.