Editor’s Note — This article is part of our new Undergraduate Research Series. You can read more about it here.
By Matthew Cousins, McKenna Koons, Amanda Macek, Lindsey Sherwood, and Caleb Starovasnik
In past years the International Paper Mill of Georgetown, South Carolina has come under fire for supposed pollution of the local Sampit River. Trials in 2009 filed by locals resulted in no legal action against the paper mill, but the argument over the possible effluent pollution and the effects of this remained unclear. To further investigate the effects of effluent discharge a group of Coastal Carolina University students took a more hands on approach.
Taking samples directly from the Sampit River, at the dumping site and below, students tested several physical and chemical parameters to determine whether or not the paper mill was having a negative impact. Contrary to popular beliefs, results were inconclusive as to where pollutants were coming from and how impactful they were to the environment. It was concluded that International Paper could not be solely blamed for effluent pollution, which was backed by several reasons. First, there is also a Steel Mill located on the same water way, and a Santee Cooper Power Plant that both contribute to pollution. Second, a comparable study by the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement also concluded other US Paper Mills were not the sole or most harmful contributors to water pollution. Lastly, an interview with a local Coastal Conservation League member concluded the Paper Mill was not considered an environmental threat above other pollution sources.
To improve upon the conclusion reached by the study, further testing of the Paper Mill and other pollutant sources such as the Steel Mill and Santee Cooper Power Plant should be done. Another sampling site above the wastewater canal should also be included to establish a base line for the river to effectively measure any additions caused by the Paper Mill. Without further investigation and consistent data, a conclusion cannot be made to convict the International Paper Mill in Georgetown South Carolina of harming the local environment or community.
Copyright © 2015 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.