What happened to the trichloroethylene that AVX Corp. dumped into the Myrtle Beach sanitary sewer system during the 1980s and 1990s?
The state agency putatively responsible for answering that question doesn't know -- and seems disinclined to find out. This "what we don't know can't hurt us" attitude is inappropriate.
The agency in question is the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. A spokesman told The Sun News recently that state regulators did not require testing for TCE back then. "It is possible," he said, "that Myrtle Beach's wastewater treatment plant would not have noticed any TCE coming into the system."
Only after scientists and environmental regulators gained a better understanding of the dangers that TCE exposure poses to human health did TCE testing become a requirement for S.C. public sewer systems. ...
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DHEC should rely on science, not speculation, to determine what happened to the TCE that AVX dumped into the city's system. Call this an act of redemption for DHEC, which has been disturbingly passive in dealing with AVX-caused pollution problems. ...
If the agency balks at running down the errant TCE, the public perception that it values industrial welfare over the public welfare will grow stronger.