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SC Ports Takes Initial Step Towards Cleanup of Former WestRock Site

Industrial waste cleanup concept.

SC Ports Takes Initial Step Towards Cleanup of Former WestRock Site

Clean Up Plan for Brownfield Property

The South Carolina State Ports Authority has filed a request with state regulators to greenlight a contract that would enable the Authority to commence cleanup operations on the former WestRock paper mill site located in North Charleston. The move is a crucial first step in the redevelopment plans for the 274-acre property, which is slated to become a shipping terminal.

Referred to as a voluntary cleanup contract, the proposal is a common measure approved by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control for businesses hoping to acquire and repurpose brownfield properties harboring long-standing contamination concerns. The arrangement enables cleanup to be carried out without the new owner incurring liability for pollution caused by past property owners.

Acceptance of Public Comments

The Department of Health and Environmental Control has opened up the proposed contract for public comment until June 5. Upon confirmation of the contract, the Ports Authority would undertake a comprehensive assessment of the environmental condition and consequently draft a plan and schedule for pollution cleanup. The analysis will encompass soil and groundwater quality tests, as well as an evaluation of the presence of methane in a former landfill located on the site.

Expanding Shipping Capacities

The acquisition of the WestRock site alongside additional land owned by the paper and packaging behemoth in Berkeley County for $105 million contributes to the expansion of the adjacent North Charleston Terminal. The expanded terminal will stretch over 481 acres, enabling it to handle up to 5 million shipping containers annually. This significantly enhances the current handling capacity of the Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant, presently the largest of the Ports Authority’s terminals.

It should be noted that the sale of the property will not impact the operations of Ingevity Corp., a chemical plant situated adjacent to the former mill. Despite the apparent environmental residues on the site, the Ports Authority has expressed plans to press on with its expansion agenda, incorporating plans for two new phases at the Leatherman Terminal in North Charleston.

Comprehensive Redevelopment Timeline

The redevelopment plan follows the announcement made last year by WestRock of its intentions to close the 500-worker papermaking plant after 86 years. A combination of high operational costs and the necessity for substantial capital investment were some of the factors that precipitated the plant’s shutdown. As Barbara Melvin, the CEO of the State Ports Authority disclosed earlier this month, the redevelopment and subsequent use as a port terminal are not expected to be completed or necessary until the 2030s or possibly even the 2040s.


SC Ports Takes Initial Step Towards Cleanup of Former WestRock Site

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