The “Historic Seaport of Georgetown” water tower looms over US 17 at its intersection with Front Street. The rust-colored dome is well-known to Georgetown’s steel mill workers, as it faces the mill’s entrance. Discharge from the steel mill is a concern to locals, as well as commercial fishermen and shrimpers, many of whom dock their trawlers and sell their catch on the nearby Sampit River.
The main output from the mill is zinc. It’s a moderately bluish-gray metal dust which tarnishes quickly in moist air, and the water tower shows evidence of this tarnishing. Additionally, the live oaks that grow near the mill are badly stunted and nearly black.
The 2009 EPA report on Georgetown states that the mill emitted 16,600 pounds of point source air emissions between 2007 and 2008, a large majority of which was zinc. Inhaling large amounts of zinc oxide can lead to metal fume fever, similar to hay fever, because the metal can act as an allergen in the bloodstream.
Georgetown’s pollutants rank it in the top 90-100 percentile of the worst zip codes in the US regarding cancerous and non-cancerous pollutants. Pawleys Island, an area a few miles northeast of Georgetown, is known for its beautiful marshes and oceanfront. It suffers a similar problem and ranks in the 60-70 percentile for non-cancer-causing pollutants.
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