Shrimpers, environmentalists concerned about impact of Georgetown oil spill

Cleanup continued Friday on an oil spill in the Sampit River in Georgetown. The Coast Guard says there are no reports of injured wildlife.

More than 500 gallons of oil-water mixture have been recovered.

That's a fairly small spill and so far, it's been contained to one area of the river, but that has not lessened the concern of some Georgetown shrimpers.

Timothy Hewitt and Hunter Smith are shrimpers working to bring an old fish market back to life.

From their spot next to ArcelorMittal Steel Mill, they got a perfect view of Wednesday's spill.

"It just covered the whole circle right here," Smith said.

The steel mill took responsibility for the spill, along with immediate action to clean it up.

But Smith still worries that if some of the oil makes its way to the ocean, it could be another blow to what he calls a dying art.

"People just quit shrimping. The price of fuel and the water, so much pollution and stuff like that, and oil, people do spill oil in the water all the time. Yeah, it takes a toll on shrimping."

Waccamaw riverkeeper Paula Reidhaar says her group is keeping a close eye on the spill, since the Sampit River is in the same watershed as the Waccamaw.

She says the steel company has done all the right things so far, but there could still be long term effects from the spill.

"Even if we think we've cleaned it up, you never can really do 100 percent. If some (oil) stays out there, it could have impacts that we may not see, and may not see for years to come," Reidhaar said.

It helps that the spill is a lubricating material, not a heavy crude oil, Reidhaar says, but any type of oil in the water can be a problem for wildlife.

"Oil can have impacts on reproduction for organisms as well as immediate impacts, such as getting into the fur and feathers of animals that have natural resistance in the waters and impacting those to not allow them to stay warm, and those sorts of things."

The Coast Guard says a snag in the steel mill's containment boom is what caused the spill.

NewsChannel 15 tried to contact ArcelorMittal. They have not returned our calls.