News | February 21, 2020

SELC op-ed: South Carolinians must fight harder than ever to protect clean water safeguards

Senior Attorney Blan Holman, leader of SELC’s Clean Water Defense Initiative, is first and foremost a South Carolinian. In this op-ed published in The State February 20, Holman discusses what’s at stake in his home state if the White House is allowed to declare open season on over half of the nation’s remaining wetlands and narrow the scope of which waters are protected by the Clean Water Act.
Read an excerpt of the piece below or click here for the full text.

In 2017 a tanker truck carrying 5,800 gallons of toxic liquids was headed from Columbia to a treatment facility near Florence. Seeking to save a little time, the driver took a shortcut.

A major one.

Rather than drive to the Pee Dee, the driver parked next to a stream and pulled the plug on the tank — pouring heavy metals like cadmium, selenium, lead, chromium, nickel and mercury into the water. The driver didn’t do this just once: he did it so many times that he dumped the equivalent of several swimming pools’ worth of toxic material into the little stream.

Fortunately neighbors saw the driver do this; they contacted authorities and last year the U.S Attorney’s Office in Columbia successfully brought the violating polluter to justice.

What law did they use? They used America’s Clean Water Act, which was enacted nearly 50 years ago by a bipartisan Congress because rivers were literally catching on fire from pollution and waterfronts were cesspools of sewage — and because state-by-state protections had failed.

After all, water and pollution move across state lines. And, after all, clean water is a bipartisan value.

South Carolinians know wetlands.

Our Carolina Bays are famous as mysterious bodies of water that insect-eating plants like the Venus flytrap — and many wood ducks — call home. And down on the coast, where flooding seems to get worse every year, wetlands destruction means more pain and misery.

The industry types in Washington are apparently assuming that people don’t know that water and pollution flow downhill. And we know that protecting the biggest rivers, but not the tributaries that feed them, is like trying to treat heart disease while ignoring the blood that flows through the heart.

In South Carolina much work remains to clean our waters — and industrial chemicals pose health threats to our families. The Clean Water Act has worked well because it stops pollution at the source and holds those who contaminate the environment and degrade our health responsible.

Our health and clean water are nonpartisan values, and we can’t abandon them now.

We must protect the Clean Water Act.