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Former Winnsboro employee says he was instructed to dump containers marked "hazardous waste"

The Department of Health and Environmental Control is investigating a report from a former town employee that he was asked to dump toxic materials back in 2018.

WINNSBORO, S.C. — A report of the dumping of toxic materials has concerned neighbors and led to an investigation from the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), which is still ongoing in Winnsboro. 

DHEC says it's a criminal investigation into what is alleged to be hazardous materials buried on a property back on Palmer Street in Winnsboro town limits.

The dumping allegedly took place back in 2018. 

"I smelled it and I was really, really concerned about the situation," says resident Ivildra English. 

English lives just feet away from the Palmer Street property which is the center of the investigation. 

"It smelled so bad Thursday night into Friday, I started to go ahead and get myself a hotel room," said resident Larry Young. 

"We were notified by the DHEC Office Of Law Enforcement on February 8th in regards to an anonymous tip with illegal dumping possibly somewhere in the town, but not on the town's property, possibly an individual's property. The Office of Law Enforcement for DHEC came and met with myself, investigators, and several employees, and tried to figure out the validity of that story. Once we kinda figured out there was truth to it, the Office of Law Enforcement of DHEC contacted some excavators and they began digging on the location where the possible hazardous materials were and we did locate some of those materials. We are currently assisting the Office of Law Enforcement with DHEC and at this time there appears to be no threat to the public," said Winnsboro Chief of Police Kevin Lawrence. 

Property owner Virginia Russell met with us on the grounds of the site and said her biggest concern is the property's future. "My concern is this property was actually, we got it a future for my daughter's business, this is actually where she would like to put her business."

"This man took them over and he pointed to an area where he is stated in an affidavit that he along with two employees with the Town of Winnsboro buried 5 or 6 barrels of waste, he doesn't know what kind of waste, he just knows it was marked hazardous waste," said David Massey, attorney for Virginia Russell. 

News19 obtained a copy of that affidavit, where the individual says he worked for the city for 18 years and was instructed to move items by supervisors of the Town of Winnsboro from their sanitation department right next door to the property and to bury these barrels marked hazardous waste underground. 

So we spoke with Winnsboro Mayor John McMeekin, who took office after the alleged dumping. He said the town is fully cooperating. 

"We will cooperate fully with DHEC and its investigation of these allegations," McMeekin said. "The concern we have is always of paramount importance for the citizens of the town and of the county." 

News19 has reached out to DHEC multiple times over the last week, asking about the investigation. They said this last week, "if containers are found, DHEC's contractor will remove, sample, and secure the contents. Additional assessment of other media, including soil and groundwater, will be performed if there are indications of any releases of hazardous substances. DHEC's contractor will properly package, ship and dispose of any hazardous materials that are found, and any soil or groundwater contamination will be assessed and remediated to meet standards.

This is still an ongoing investigation

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