Grant application reflects vision for mill dump area on Saluda River


By David Meade

Pelzer – Approximately 25 people attended a public meeting in Pelzer Monday to hear about a Brownfields Cleanup Grant being applied for to help with cleanup of the old Pelzer Mill trash dump.

Pelzer Heritage Commission Vice President Larry Coker, who spearheaded the effort to obtain ownership of the Pelzer Mill properties, said the organization is applying for two brownfields grants for two parcels of approximately 28 acres.

The property lies between the Hwy. 20 Piedmont bridge along the Saluda River and adjacent to Parker St and Frost St. near the upper mill site.

Coker said the grant will help with cleanup and capping of the property and the organization is applying for funds because the grants are currently available from the EPA.

The Town of Pelzer, Anderson County and citizens are backing the Pelzer Heritage Commission to help get the Pelzer Mill properties cleaned up and hopefully developed in the future, according to Coker. “There is a lot of potential here,” he said.

Gail Rawls Jeter, Brownfields Specialist with Cardno, is assiting the Pelzer Heritage Commission with the grant application. Jeter has been involved in previous brownfields assessment work done at the mill property for the Town of Pelzer.

Together, the Pelzer Heritage Commission (PHC) and Town of Pelzer have already accomplished a site inventory, two Phase I ESAs, two asbestos and lead based paint surveys and two Phase II ESAs on the mill property.

“Congratulations on where you have come since 2008,” Jeter told those in attendance. “For a community like Pelzer to take a title to this property, is no small thing.”

Jeter recapped previous assessment work done on the mill properties.


According to Jeter, the Town of Pelzer applied for an EPA Brownfields Assessment Grant in Oct. of 2008 which they did not receive. In Oct. 2009, they reapplied with help from Anderson County and in April of 2010, Pelzer was awarded a $200,000 grant to help with the initial brownfield assessment for the mill properties located in the town limits.

The assessment work did not include the dump site because it lies outside the town limits.

Anderson County also helped with a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) in Feb. 2011 The Phase I ESA concluded a historical recognized environmental condition from pervious use as a dump.

In 2011 Pelzer applied for a Region IV EPA Targeted Brownfields Assessment (TBA) program.

In May 2011, EPA approved the application for the TBA and proceeded with a Phase II ESA which was completed in July 2011.

The Phase II ESA sampling showed impact to surface soils from arsenic, lead, and multiple Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) that exceeded the EPA Region IX Regional Screening Levels for industrial and residential use.


For about a year, nothing was done on the property, however the Palmetto Area Master Plan was being developed for Anderson County.

In Sept. 2012, The Palmetto Area Master Plan was presented for the “Palmetto Area” which includes Pelzer, West Pelzer and Williamston.

The overriding concept of the plan is to help existing places thrive while creating great new places. Preserving history while creating new walkable and bikable places is also central to the plan.

The grant application also references the Saluda River Development Plan being pursued by Anderson County for a blue trail on the river for kayaking and canoeing from Piedmont to Ware Shoals.

The river travels directly around the trash disposal area and plans referenced in the grant application state the property could be converted into an overlook park.

While Anderson County officials were pushing the bluetrail use of the Saluda River, others in the community were looking at the possibility of walking, biking and hiking trails interconnecting the West Pelzer, Pelzer and Williamston area.

Information in the Brownfields grant application states that the vision in the master plan includes a river walk in Pelzer with multi use trails which will accommodate biking, hiking and multiple kayak launches.

Coker and members of the Pelzer Heritage Commission were also expressing a desire to obtain the mill property and to clean it up and to make it an asset for the town.


In 2013, after meeting with Anderson County Administrator Rusty Burns and Anderson County Community Planner and Grant Writer Steve Newton about the possibilities for the properties, Coker and the Pelzer Heritage Commisssion began discussions with Tom Green about the possibility of having the mill property donated to the 501C3 non-profit group.

As it turned out, Green was interested in the proposal.

In preparation of accepting the donation of all the Pelzer Mill Property, the Pelzer Heritage Commission, as a non-responsible party, had a Phase I ESA done in August 2013. The dump sites were the focus of the study.

The Phase I ESA noted the same historical RECS and contamination documented by the 2011 TBA as well as the presence of additional household garbage from more recent unpermitted dumping.

A voluntary Cleanup Contract was signed on Nov. 21, 2013 which addressed cleanup on the two dump parcels as well as the Upper and Lower Mill parcels.

The Pelzer Mill property was officially transferred to the Pelzer Heritage Commission on Friday, Dec. 27, when the necessary paperwork for donation of the property was finalized.


The grant application states “The Pelzer Community is very small, but its residents are impacted by four parcels of unsecured property with known contamination exceeding industrial and residential RSLs and another five parcels that may be contributing contamination to the environment.”

Jeter said in the early days of the mill, it was a common practice to burn everything and then cover the rest. Landfill regulations were not developed in SC until the 1970s.

According to the assessment, the trash dump site exists much today as it did when it was being used. It is open, unfenced and wooded parcels of land that have bits and pieces of the mills history poking up here and there in the cleared area that was obviously the burn pit and disposal area.

As part of the 2011 EPA Assessment Grant, more than 35 Pelzer community residents held a collective exercise to envision a future for the former mill complex. Led by the Army Corps of Engineers, citizens created their vision for the town which included a variety of ideas from a community garden, bike paths and trails, river center/boat dock and historical museum. Central in the theme was to take advantage of the Saluda River.


Cardno has prepared an Analysis of Brownfields Cleanup Alternatives (ABCA) on behalf of the Pelzer Heritage Commisssion for the Pelzer Disposal Area.

The ABCA is being submitted along with the application for the Brownfields Cleanup Grant.

Three options were presented for the proposed cleanup including taking no action; excavation and off site disposal; and excavation of the top six inches of contaminated soils/debris with a two foot cap and a retaining wall.

Option three was selected as the most appropriate and viable option at an estimated cost of $169,000.

Discussion during the meeting suggested that instead of excavation, the dump site should just be covered with a cap because underlying materials are the same. further down.


The grant application states that the community envisions the east parcel of 16.85 acres to be an Overlook Park. It states a cleared area on the edge of the Saluda River needs improvements to become the river walk proposed in the Palmetto Area Master Plan.

The overlook park vision includes picnic tables and outdoor seating so the community and visitors can enjoy the view of the river.

According to the grant, the proposed overlook park, which is a simple redevelopment of an old dump, will enhance the natural beauty of the area and protect the area from environmental exposure.

The grant application states the community is looking to preserve its history and create new space that will take

advantage of the natural beauty of the area. “They are reimagining life in Pelzer based on a live/work/play reuse of former mill properties,” it says.ation references The Palmetto Area Master Plan stating that it incorporates smart growth and sustainable components of development and redevelopment such as fixing existing infrastructure so that it can be used, reused, creating a sense of place by preserving the historical aspects of the area and capturing the beauty and benefits of the river with walkable and bikable trails and blueway usage.

It states, “Recreational opportunities will draw more residents and visitors to Pelzer increasing the economic viability.”

Another part of the plan calls for the Overlook Park with river access points for kayaks and canoes, cyclists and boaters to rest and picnic.


The Pelzer Heritage Commission and the town of Pelzer are working together to guide the project. Pelzer’s receipt of a $200,000 grant in 2010 helps the Pelzer Heritage Commission with their grant application, Jeter said.

If approved, the two $200,000 grants will be used to facilitate redevelopment of the property by remediating the environmental impacts identified in previous assessments.

The grant application and the draft ABCA is available for public comment from Jan. 13 through Jan. 20. A draft copy of the ABCA is available at Pelzer Town Hall located at 103 Courtney St. until Jan. 20. It will also be posted online at

The grant application will be submitted Jan. 22. Community input is very helpful when applying for a grant for this type of project, according to Jeter.

Interested citizens are encouraged to submit written comments to show support for the project. Comments can be directed to Dianne Lollis or Gail Jeter.

Lollis can be contacted by email at or phone at 864-392-1180. Jeter can be contacted by email at or by phone at 803-929-6059.

Written comments can be sent to Jeter at 1233 Washington St., Suite 1000, Columbia SC 29201.

Letters of support can also be sent to Environmental Management Support, Inc., attention Don West, 8601 Georgia Avenue, Suite 500, Silver Spring, MD 20910.