A water utility has filed suit against two companies for alleged groundwater contamination, seeking to hold them liable for the costs of cleaning up the water supply. Alligator Rural Water and Sewer is alleging that the defendants were the source of two potentially carcinogenic chemicals that appeared in the water supply in McBee, South Carolina. The lawsuit claims $450 million in damages. News reports do not indicate if any personal injury lawsuits have arisen from the alleged contamination, but the scenario of groundwater contamination by possibly cancer-causing agents has been behind several prominent lawsuits around the country.
Alligator filed suit in September 2012 in Chesterfield County, South Carolina against peach grower McLeod Farms and wire manufacturer Mar Mac Wire, Inc. An investigation by the Columbia, SC NBC affiliate, WIS, found that numerous private water wells tested positive for contamination by Dibromochloropropane (DBCP) and Ethylene Dibromide (EDB) in 2007. The state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) also reportedly found elevated levels of DBCP and radium in Alligator’s water system during inspections between 2005 and 2009. According to WIS, Alligator spent $15 million on a water filtration system after a meeting with DHEC in May 2009. A DHEC inspection in July 2012 reportedly found no trace of the chemicals.
Farmers and manufacturing companies used DBCP and EDB until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned them in the 1970’s. The EPA determined that both chemicals presented a high risk of various health complications, including cancer. While the filtering system installed by Alligator may be responsible for the lack of the chemicals in recent tests, the DHEC has stated that private wells may still have some traces of contamination.