The Charleston Neck Area is getting a bit of a makeover.
Agru America Charleston LLC, a Georgetown-based company that plans to build a $29.6 million manufacturing plant in that part of the city, has agreed to clean up environmental problems on the property it's buying from the State Ports Authority.
Agru America - which makes protective liners for landfills and other applications - is buying nearly 16 acres of SPA land at the end of Greenleaf Street for $3 million. The company plans to create 36 jobs at a new facility there, according to CEO Robert Johnson.
It's one of a trio of redevelopment projects proposed for the Neck Area. Kinder Morgan, the largest energy infrastructure company in North America, wants to build a conveyor system and extend its existing dock at Milford Street to improve its wood-chip storage and export facility. And Charleston Neck Storage LLC wants to build a three-level storage building on property it's buying along Meeting Street between Greenleaf Street and Algonquin Road.
The Agru America plant will make high-density polyethylene 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. Old appliances, roofing shingles and siding containing asbestos have been found on the property.
Initial soil testing has detected 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 affected 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 land sale.
Agru America, which began with a polypropylene pipe plant in Massachusetts in 1988, employs 200 people at three manufacturing sites 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.
The Kinder Morgan project is moving through the permitting process with the Army Corps of Engineers. The company wants to build a 710-foot-long conveyor system to move wood pellets to a transfer tower, where a ship loader also would be built to transfer the pellets to a moored vessel. A dock extension of 292 feet by 52 feet also would be built to accommodate the new structures.
A permit application for the project states that an estimated 40,000 cubic yards of material will need to be dredged from Shipyard Creek. The project also will need approval from DHEC to ensure the dredging complies with the federal Clean Water Act.
Charleston Neck Storage has entered into the same kind of cleanup program with DHEC as Agru America for its proposed 1.57-acre project along Meeting Street. The parcel used to be a portion of Exxon Corp.'s distribution terminal. A pair of 500,000-gallon above-ground storage tanks were located on the property and sludge from the tanks was buried in trenches at the site, according to DHEC. The property has been vacant since 1989.
Under a voluntary cleanup contract, which still must be approved, the storage company would be required to test soil and water for pollution and keep any existing pollution under control. If significant contamination is found, Charleston Neck Storage could be required to take additional steps to protect the environment.
Reach David Wren at 937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_