More than a dozen homeowners in Cheraw, South Carolina, faced a scary situation when they learned toxic chemicals were present in the soil of their backyards. Even though the contamination from a nearby textile plant had occurred some 40 years earlier, the chemical spill was only recently detected. Cleanup work by state and federal agencies required the excavation of up to a foot of contaminated soil, replacement with clean soil, then grass installation using drought tolerant Palisades Zoysia grown nearby at local sod farm, Turf Connections. The result was a restoration to help homeowners recover from what was certainly a harrowing experience.
Polychlorinated Biphenyls, better known as PCBs, were found in a drainage ditch bordering more than a dozen homes and a playground. The chemical contamination was likely caused between 1961 and 1972, when the Town of Cheraw did not have a sanitary sewer system in place, and officials were not aware of any environmental contamination discharge. Levels were high enough to require lawns to be ripped up, excavated and replaced with new soil, and covered with new grass to ensure public health. Only recently was the contamination was discovered by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Almost immediately, both departments took action to address and secure public safety.
“The sample results we found exceed certain generic risk criteria that the EPA has measured and evaluated for PCBs and we use that criteria to determine what kind of action to take,” said Matthew Huyser, on-site coordinator for the EPA.
In this case, the action was removal of up to a foot of contaminated soil in the yards of more than a dozen homes—at least 5,000 tons of soil hauled away and disposed of properly. Once excavated, no further remediation was necessary. Clean soil was brought in, and covered with a layer of fresh, green and drought tolerant Palisades Zoysia grass to help stabilize the soil.
Work began this summer and was scheduled to finish early this fall. Prior to the EPA action, lawns in the neighborhood did not have irrigation systems. But as Huyser noted, planting new grass in the more than 100-degree South Carolina summer without irrigation posed a great challenge. Water trucks delivered water to the new lawns for three weeks to ensure root establishment. Huyser knew he had to plant a grass that would stabilize the new topsoil, root down quickly and survive with little irrigation once established.
“We needed something that was going to be tolerant to whatever the environment threw at it without requiring the homeowners to have to babysit the lawn that we provided for them,” Huyser said.
Huyser supervises EPA projects in an eight-states region from Kentucky, to Mississippi to the Carolinas. “We have used zoysiagrass before on other residential projects with success and it’s on my own home lawn” in Atlanta. When it came time to choose a lawn for this project, Huyser consulted with Marc Marsh, owner of Turf Connections, who recommended Palisades Zoysia because it could meet all of the project’s criteria for drought tolerance, low fertilization requirements and appearance.
Huyser said the fact that Turf Connections was just a few miles from the jobsite made the project go even smoother. “It was also extremely convenient that they are five miles away from the project. I don’t think that’s happened before, that the farm was so close to the site,” Huyser said.
Marsh said he it meant a lot to him to be a part of a project that helped his neighbors and highlighted how his product can solve an issue.
“The EPA improved each homeowner’s lawn from the underground up,” said Marsh. “We were thankful that Palisades Zoysia was chosen to showcase its durability. It was like adding the icing on top of the cake.”
Marsh wasn’t the only one pleased with the results of the EPA’s cleanup efforts. According to the general contractor who helped remove and replace the contaminated soil, having a beautiful lawn at the end of what was a stressful experience for the homeowners involved helped ease the pain of the situation.
“It’s done beautifully,” the EPA’s subcontractor said. “All the residents are tickled with their new grass.”