Columbia, SC (WLTX) - DHEC says it has an open and ongoing criminal investigation after high concentrations of a cancer causing chemical were found inside the grease trap of a Midlands restaurant.
DHEC issued an emergency regulation that impacts waste water plants after the discovery of cancer causing Polychlorinated Buphenyls was made September 13. Previous Coverage: DHEC Finds PCBSs in Richland County
The discovery was made during a routine inspection of a grease trap at the McCalisters Deli on Sparkleberry Lane.
Inspectors said that when grease was being removed from the trap, they noticed a dark liquid like motor oil. A call was made to DHEC who found high levels of the industrial lubricant outlawed in the United States in 1979.
DHEC believes someone illegally dumped the chemical in the restaurant grease trap.
"Really nasty stuff," said Congaree River Keeper Bill Stangler. "It's a known carcinogen. It causes cancer. It has a really long life. It doesn't break down in the environment quickly."
Strangler usually tests waterways around the Midlands every quarter but anticipates he might test more often for the next couple of months.
Stangler worries that if someone illegally dumped once, they might dump PCB's in water at some point down the road.
"We're going to consider doing some additional testing ourselves," Stangler said. "I'd like to see the waste water providers do testing at their plants and possibly DHEC to do some additional monitoring as well."
PCB's are nor normally looked for during routine water tests since they're outlawed.
The waste water plant closest to the inspection site says they are doing additional testing and looking specifically for PCB's to make sure the chemical hasn't spread.
"There's a potential," Stangler said. "There's a potential this stuff gets into the sewer system and it's not treated at those waste water plants so it could pass through."