Press Release | February 21, 2013

Conservationists Notify Santee Cooper of Clean Water Act Violations at Grainger Plant in Conway, SC

Today, the Southern Environmental Law Center gave notice of its intent to file suit against Santee Cooper for violations of the federal Clean Water Act at Santee Cooper’s Grainger Plant due to discharges from its coal ash lagoons on the Waccamaw River in Conway, South Carolina. The notice was sent to Lonnie Carter, President of Santee Cooper, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control on behalf of the Winyah Rivers Foundation and its Waccamaw Riverkeeper.

Frank Holleman, Senior Attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center stated: “Santee Cooper’s coal ash lagoons are discharging toxic wastes into South Carolina’s ground water and into the Waccamaw River and wetlands. This pollution violates the Clean Water Act and Santee Cooper’s Clean Water Act permit for discharges into the Waccamaw River and has been going on for years. It is long past time that Santee Cooper cleaned up its pollution on the Waccamaw.”

The notice points out that Santee Cooper is violating the Clean Water Act under its existing permit by discharging arsenic and other pollutants into South Carolina’s groundwater, which flows into the Waccamaw River. The notice also cites Santee Cooper’s permit violations as a result of leaks, seeps, and flows of pollutants into the Waccamaw River from the coal ash lagoons, which are not authorized in Santee Cooper’s existing permit.

Santee Cooper’s Clean Water Act permit expired in 2006, but Santee Cooper is required by law to continue to comply with it. The Southern Environmental Law Center and conservation groups have previously filed suit to force DHEC to issue a new Clean Water Act permit more protective of the Waccamaw River and have filed suit for Santee Cooper’s violations of South Carolina’s Pollution Control Act, in addition to Santee Cooper’s violations of the federal Clean Water Act.

Holleman added: “Santee Cooper is violating South Carolina’s Pollution Control Act, is operating under a Clean Water Act permit that expired over 6 years ago, and is violating the federal Clean Water Act. We should expect more than this from any utility, and especially from a state government agency like Santee Cooper.”

Christine Ellis, the Waccamaw Riverkeeper, stated: “The Waccamaw River is a great natural resource for Conway, the Waccamaw Region, and the entire Southeast. Santee Cooper’s pollution is illegal and immoral, and it should be required to stop the ongoing pollution and clean it up for the benefit of our river and our community.”

Santee Cooper stores 650,000 tons of coal ash in Conway in old, unlined lagoons that are located in wetlands on the Waccamaw River, upstream from drinking water intakes and the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge. The lagoons are separated from the river by low earthen dikes that are partially submerged when the water in the river is high. Santee Cooper has known for years that the lagoons are polluting the Waccamaw and groundwater with arsenic, as well as other pollutants. Santee Cooper has idled the Grainger plant and has begun formulating plans to leave the coal ash in the lagoons indefinitely.

About the Waccamaw Riverkeeper and Winyah Rivers Foundation:
The Waccamaw RIVERKEEPER® is a program of Winyah Rivers Foundation, a non-profit environmental organization whose mission is to protect, preserve, monitor and revitalize the health of the lands and waters of the greater Winyah Bay watershed. Our goal is to protect our community’s right to fishable, swimmable and drinkable water. We pursue this goal through education and advocacy programs in support of our mission to protect our river resources. These programs are developed and implemented to increase the scientific literacy of our community, including local decision makers, and to engage them in environmental stewardship and planning for river resource protections.

Press Contacts

Frank Holleman

Senior Attorney with a focus on litigation

Phone: 919-967-1450