This is a newly opened industrial site a few blocks off Main St. in Newberry, South Carolina. It has been producing smoke and noise almost continuously since they opened in August, 2020. Local residents say that while there have been previous tenants, it has never been anything like this. The equipment being dismantled at the site are not from a local site. Although I can not determine the location of the actual site where the material originates, I have been told by a reliable source acting in an official capacity that they were informed by the site manager that the waste originates from Columbia, SC, which is 40 miles away.
The local neighborhood is one of the poorest in the city. It is predominantly Black, with some Brown and a few White residents. The smoke carries for hundreds of feet and affects 20-30 houses at any point in time, and 100 or more total. The area immediately downwind of the site is zoned "High-density residential" by the City.
Burning metal can release nickel (Ni), zinc (Zn), and other alloys. Nickel is a known carcinogen. The outgassing from the oxy-fuel torches is harsh, and can be smelled for several blocks, affecting breathing and potentially triggering asthma and respiratory distress. The Department of Health and Environmental Control has visited the site. Their response from 02/19/21:
"I went to the salvage yard in questions and per our air regulations they are not in violation of those. The facility has the proper permits they need. If there is anything else in the future I can help with, please let me know."
The agent's initials are RNB. I asked additional questions, but got no responses. Effectively, DHEC has said it is legal to poison Black people in their own homes.
Below is a one hour time-lapse video at 8x speed (03/31/21). It may help to run the video at an additional 8x speed, as this makes it easier to differentiate the smoke.
Here is the street level view, again at 8x time lapse (03/31/21):
The plume of smoke at the 30 second mark takes approximately ten seconds on the video to pass. At 8x speed, this equates to over one minute and fifteen seconds. An absence of smoke does not indicate an absence of toxins and other byproducts in the air. The air was harsh and irritating to the nose, eyes and lungs.
To show this was not an exception, but a normal day, below is another one hour time lapse video (03/29/21):
In the above video, you can see a house to the left. Two weeks earlier (03/15/21), I took this video at street-level with that house:
Note that the smoke passes in front of the trees and appears to surround the house.
On 04/07/21, the winds were light and variable, and the air was dry. This 32x minute-long time-lapse video shows the smoke does not dissipate and regularly surrounds the house to the left, on Adelaide St. A one minute real-time video conveys how long it takes for the smoke to pass by.
Below is 32x video showing smoke going into houses west of the site (04/06/21). The first 15 seconds are the most important. My house is about 1/4 mile west of the site, and I could smell the burning metal.
A real-time video from the same location is here. You may want to fast forward to see the smoke, then re-watch it to see how slowly it dissipates. Another 32x video of an hour on a different day (04/06/21) is here. That video is notable for the variability of the winds that day. It affected dozens of homes and made the air difficult to breathe. The relative absence of smoke is not reflective of an absence of pollutants. At 1:26 you can see the plume of smoke that overran where I was filming. I had to put on a respirator I had brought with me (I was expecting the wind to blow towards me on that day).
It is Spring, with mild temperatures. Unfortunately, the residents of Benedict, Emory, and Hunt Street can not open their windows without risking smoke coming into their houses if the site is burning metal and the wind is blowing their way. I have personally spoken with individuals who tell me they can smell the smoke in their houses, even with windows and doors closed.
Here is an example of the process - pay close attention at the 50 second mark (Not a time-lapse video; the liquid metal and sparks are coming off the metal that fast due to the force of the torch.)
A wider view (the wind was coming from the northeast):
The site was previously a small, commercial transfer station for recycling metal. The owner sold the place in the fall of 2019. The new owners were supposed to maintain only what the previous owner had done, after some clean-up. However, they now accept large equipment for dismantling (brought in on tractor-trailers). After offloading they use large claws on backhoes to rip the equipment apart and then use oxy-fuel torches to burn the metal into smaller pieces. They have also excavated a large area hundreds of feet across and created large piles of polluted ground and scrap material.
Here is an example of the equipment that they bring in for dismantling. The truck in the image below came through the local neighborhood:
Here is the same truck leaving:
and some unloading of industrial size pipe (take a listen to how loud it is, right next to people's houses):
It takes a lot of fuel to do this much burning.
I conservatively calculate the large liquid oxygen tank can hold as much as 12,100lbs of oxygen, based on six feet diameter and six feet length (170 cubic feet, at 71.2 lbs per cubic foot). This may underestimate the volume by as much as 100%, if the actual dimensions are eight feet tall by eight feet long (400 cubic feet) .
Originally the site looked like
However, the heart-shaped area on the right has been excavated into a deep hole, in an on-going operation, as can be seen in the video below (from 03/29/21), taken from Hunt St., which is to the right (east) of the image
They appear to be scaling up, as they recently moved heavily polluted dirt to a new location (03/31/21):
A map of the area:
According to the City Manager's research, the site has been zoned industrial since the first zoning map was issued in 1973. There is very little documentation of the process, and the only objections documented were in opposition to locating a trailer park at the site. As noted in the South Carolina Encyclopedia, many public schools were still segregated through to the early 1970s.
04/01/2021: Redesigned layout. Previous contents are here