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Wells safe from Fort Jackson pollution, tests show

COLUMBIA, SC — A toxic compound that is polluting groundwater at Fort Jackson has not made drinking water unsafe for people who live near the military complex, according to test results released this week by the state health department.

Of 46 tests taken in private wells south of the fort, all but three samples were clean and free of the explosive compound RDX, results show. And of the three samples with contamination, all were within government standards, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reported.

In an email to The State newspaper, DHEC spokesman Mark Plowden said well tests also have not shown signs of pollution from 15 other compounds examined.

Fort Jackson officials declined comment this week, saying they would hold a public meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday to discuss the results of the well tests. The tests were to have been taken late last year in the area around Leesburg Road, which runs beside the fort in southeast Richland County.

The pollutant of most concern, RDX, can cause seizures in people who consume substantial quantities in water. It also is considered a possible human carcinogen.

The well test results were a relief to people worried about whether they had been drinking chemically polluted water from backyard wells. But questions remained about whether the pollutant will one day show up in drinking water wells, since the base still plans to use explosives containing RDX.

“They’re not going to cease and desist’’ from using materials containing RDX, Leesburg Road-area resident Carol Roberts said. “I have no assurances I’m not going to have one of those positive testing wells 20 to 30 years from now.’’

Roberts, who moved to the area near the fort about eight years ago, said the military should continue to check people’s wells to make sure the RDX pollution doesn’t one day spread to their drinking water.

Used for decades, RDX is a key ingredient in the estimated 100,000 live hand grenades troops train with each year at the base in Columbia.

Army officials announced in November that they had discovered RDX-tainted water on the southern edge of Fort Jackson. Base officials said they didn’t think the pollution would affect nearby drinking water supplies, because it was found only in traces at the fort. But they chose to test wells as a precaution.

When the contamination showed up at Fort Jackson, however, is a matter that has been in dispute.

The military says it did not receive test results showing pollution on Fort Jackson until the summer of 2013. But DHEC director Catherine Templeton said the base knew about the contamination a year earlier.

Thursday’s meeting will be at the Weston Lake clubhouse at Fort Jackson.

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