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Columbia Canal Broad River Bridge: Javar Juarez ©

The Broad River in Peril: An Urgent Call for Environmental Justice

by Javar Juarez - Monday, July 31st, 2023 at 8:46am EST

Located along the Broad River, more than 60 miles north of a major Columbia drinking water source, the closed Carlisle Finishing textile plant has been found to be contaminated with "forever chemicals." The pollution on the site is alarmingly up to 7,200 times higher in groundwater than the proposed federal standard of four parts per trillion, according to state data. Moreover, the company has been distributing sewer sludge to farmers as fertilizer, which tests reveal contains forever chemical levels up to 80 times higher than the proposed federal limit. Although the levels recorded in the river and Columbia's drinking water plant are somewhat lower, they still exceed the proposed limit for the two most common types of PFAS.

Clint Shealy, Columbia's assistant city manager over utilities, expresses the urgency to investigate and halt future threats and existing leaks contaminating the river at the Carlisle plant. To achieve this, collective political involvement is required, as we must address the challenge of limited trust in science by state Republicans and the interests of certain industry proponents in our state. The consequences of neglecting these environmental issues have already been catastrophic for the people of South Carolina, particularly impacting vulnerable communities, including Black and Hispanic/Latino residents, who are more likely to be exposed to harmful levels of PFAS due to disproportionate pollution sources located near their watersheds.

Beyond the safety concerns for Columbia's drinking water, there is also an economic imperative to act swiftly. Without effective measures to prevent PFAS pollutants from entering the water, Columbia may face significant costs, potentially exceeding $150 million for implementing a filtering system to comply with federal regulations.

The urgency of this situation cannot be understated. PFAS, known as "forever chemicals," are notoriously persistent in the environment and have been linked to various health issues, including cancer, immune system weakening, and developmental delays in children. Manufacturers have been accused of concealing the dangers of these chemicals for decades, adding to the severity of the crisis.

It is vital for all of us to unite and demand environmental justice now before the situation worsens and puts our health and that of our future generations at risk. Taking action today will not only safeguard our well-being but also preserve our financial resources for a healthier and safer future.

I encourage you to share your thoughts and get involved in advocating for environmental justice at

Let us come together to protect the Broad River and ensure a sustainable, healthier environment for all.

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