Press Release | November 5, 2013

Groups Warn Sewer Utility to Stop Polluting Lower Saluda River

On behalf of Congaree Riverkeeper, the Southern Environmental Law Center has given notice to Carolina Water Service, Inc. that it intends to file a lawsuit for violations of the federal Clean Water Act at Carolina Water Service’s I-20 sewage facility, which discharges wastewater into the Lower Saluda River.  The notice of intent to sue alleges that the facility is violating its permit by repeatedly polluting the river with sewage discharges in excess of discharge limits and by not connecting to a regional sewer system serviced by the City of Cayce’s modern wastewater treatment plant.

“We’re asking Carolina Water Service to comply with laws to keep the Saluda River healthy and clean.  People in the Midlands take pride in their rivers and cannot tolerate repeat offenders who pollute right where families recreate,” said Blan Holman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “We hope this notice will spur Carolina Water Service to connect to the cleaner regional treatment system and bring its unlawful pollution to an end.”

The Lower Saluda River near Columbia is extremely popular with swimmers, fishermen, and whitewater paddlers, and is a designated state scenic river.  Local management agencies have repeatedly called for the elimination of all sewage discharges into the river – including sewage discharges from Carolina Water Service’s I-20 facility – to protect the health of the river and those who use it.

Carolina Water Service has been required to stop discharging into the Saluda and connect its I-20 facility to the regional sewer system since 1999, but has failed to do so.  In the past five years alone, the company has exceeded applicable permit limits for fecal coliform bacteria and biochemical oxygen demand at least nineteen times, with violations continuing into 2013.

Fecal coliform is an indicator of pathogenic microorganisms that can make contact recreation like swimming, wading, or paddling a potential health risk.  Increased biochemical oxygen demand can reduce oxygen levels in the river, posing hazards for a wide variety of organisms, including the Saluda’s prized trout population.  Carolina Water Service’s discharge also produces a visible sheen and foam, which is prohibited under the company’s permit.

While state officials at the Department of Health and Environmental Control have periodically sent warning letters to Carolina Water Service, the agency has not followed through with enforcement action to remedy the pattern of violations occurring at the I-20 facility and protect the Lower Saluda River.

“The Lower Saluda River is a unique and important ecosystem which provides aquatic habitat for fish and other species as well as excellent recreational opportunities for residents of the Midlands region and the entire state,” said Bill Stangler, the Congaree Riverkeeper.  “The river’s significance has long been recognized, and it’s time for polluters like Carolina Water Service to be held accountable for violating the Clean Water Act and threatening this exceptional public resource.”

The notice states that the Southern Environmental Law Center will file suit on behalf of Congaree Riverkeeper in federal court in 60 days to remedy the violations, unless Carolina Water Service comes into full compliance with the Clean Water Act.

About Congaree Riverkeeper:
Congaree Riverkeeper is a nonprofit organization working to protect and improve water quality, wildlife habitat, and recreation on the Congaree, Lower Saluda and Lower Broad Rivers through advocacy, education and enforcement of environmental laws.  Congaree Riverkeeper is an affiliate of the Waterkeeper Alliance, a global movement of on-the-water advocates who patrol and protect rivers and coasts all over the world.

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Kathleen Sullivan

Senior Communications Manager (NC)

Phone: 919-945-7106
Email: [email protected]