COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina environmental regulators have ordered more testing to avoid possible contamination by a toxic industrial chemical.
The board of the Department of Health and Environmental Control on Thursday ordered more testing at wastewater treatment plans to look for PCBs, The State newspaper reported.
Officials worry the chemicals could show up in sewage sludge that farmers use to fertilize their fields.
State lawmakers would have to approve the proposed rules dealing with sludge. There were complaints by utilities, farmers and sludge haulers at an earlier public hearing that the new rules were too restrictive.
DHEC says the rules should give the agency a better evaluation of the scope of PCBs in sludge across South Carolina.
PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are considered cancer-causing agents in humans. The federal government banned production of PCBs in 1979 because of the health impacts the material can have on people and wildlife.
Despite the ban, elevated levels of PCBs began showing up in the sludge at Upstate sewage plants last year and later were found in Richland County, causing concerns the toxins could be applied to farms in sludge used to grow some crops.
The PCBs found last year sparked a criminal investigation of sewage dumping in the Upstate.
The new rules for PCB levels are lower than the federal limits for sludge. Wastewater plants and others would have to monitor sludge designated for farms four times a year, instead of annually.
Information from: The State, http://www.thestate.com