SELC supports state plans to deny permit for Saluda River polluter

Carolina Water Service has repeatedly polluted the Saluda River, pictured here. The state intends to deny the company’s requested permit renewal, ratcheting up pressure to eliminate the sewage discharges. (© William Graf)

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has announced it intends to deny a permit renewal for Carolina Water Service’s (CWS) water treatment plant on the Lower Saluda River. SELC and our client, Congaree Riverkeeper, fully support that decision and are prepared to defend it if challenged.

Last month, the state released a Notice of Intent to Deny the discharge permit for CWS’s I-20 plant. The denial was based on state regulations that make dischargers who are obligated to connect to a larger regional system ineligible for permit renewals. CWS has been required to connect the I-20 plant to the regional system since 1999.

Today, SELC submitted comments strongly supporting DHEC’s decision to deny the permit. If DHEC’s decision is challenged, it could end up in the S.C. Administrative Law Court.

“Removing CWS’s discharge from the Lower Saluda is particularly important because this section of the river is a state scenic river where thousands of people swim, fish, and paddle every year,” SELC attorneys wrote in their comments. “Denying this renewal permit is an important step toward finally ending CWS’s discharge and protecting the Lower Saluda and the people who use it from sewage pollution.”

In considering whether to reissue CWS’s permit, DHEC released a draft renewal permit for public comment over the summer. Area residents and river users, including Congaree Riverkeeper, strongly objected to the proposed permit renewal because CWS was required to end its discharge into the Lower Saluda over a decade ago by connecting its plant to the regional sewer system. In addition to failing to remove its discharge, CWS has also exceeded its permit limits, including those for fecal coliform bacteria and biochemical oxygen demand, at least 24 times in the past 5 years alone. DHEC’s ultimate decision to deny the permit signals its intent to ensure that Carolina Water Service complies with the law and ends its sewage discharges once and for all.

SELC attorney Blan Holman commended DHEC’s proposed decision. “DHEC is doing exactly what its supposed to do and what the law requires, and the result will be a cleaner Saluda River for everyone who boats, fishes and swims there.”

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