Agru America to clean up property in adance of Charleston expansion

PROVIDED/AGRU AMERICA Georgetown-based Agru America plans to build a $29.6 million manufacturing facility on property it is buying from the S.C. Ports Authority

A Georgetown-based company that plans to build a $29.6 million manufacturing plant in Charleston has agreed to clean up environmental problems on the property it is buying from the state Ports Authority.

Agru America Charleston LLC - which makes protective liners for landfills and other applications - is buying nearly 16 acres of SPA land at the end of Greenleaf Road for $3 million. The company plans to create 36 jobs at a new facility there, according to Robert Johnson, the company's chief executive officer.

The plant will make high-density polyethylene for geomembranes and other products for export through the Port of Charleston. It is not clear when the facility will open.

The voluntary cleanup will take place through an agreement with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control under a program designed to rehabilitate property for economic development.

The property once housed a coal export facility during the first half of the 20th century and the potential contamination stems from those operations and uncontrolled dumping that took place since then, according to DHEC officials. Trash including appliances, roofing shingles and siding containing asbestos have been found on the property.

Initial soil testing at the property has shown arsenic, various metals and semi-volatile organic compounds that exceed federal screening levels. In addition, a groundwater monitoring well on the property has shown arsenic levels above the maximum limits allowed by law.

Agru America plans to conduct additional testing - including air samples at existing structures and soil gas samples to ensure future buildings aren't impacted by contaminants - as part of the cleanup process, according to its contract with DHEC.

The company has agreed to remove or stabilize any contamination that is found. In exchange, Agru America can apply for tax credits from the state and will be exempt from any third-party lawsuits over any potential contamination that is discovered.

"This is part of the buyer's normal due diligence," said Erin Dhand, the SPA's spokeswoman. Dhand said there is no scheduled closing date for the purchase.

Agru America, which began with a polypropylene pipe plant in Massachusetts in 1988, employs 200 people at three manufacturing facilities located in Georgetown, Andrews and Fernley, Nev. The company is part of Alois Gruber GmbH, an Austrian family-owned business with production facilities in Austria, the United States, Germany, China and India, and distribution to over 80 countries.

Reach David Wren at 937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_