The South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

Current SCELP Cases

Oakridge Landfill

Oakridge Landfill

OCRM has issued a water quality certification and coastal zone consistency certification to Waste Management to perform work associated with the massive expansion of Oakridge Landfill located in Dorchester County. Particularly, Waste Management plans to fill over 14 acres of freshwater wetlands for expansion of the class 3 landfill.

The wetlands that will be filled are located upstream of and are hydrologically connected to Francis Beidler Forest and Four Holes Swamp, and provide important ecological benefits such as wildlife habitat and flood control for these important areas. Francis Beidler Forest is a 16,500+ acre forested wetland reserve and National Audubon Society wildlife sanctuary located in Four Holes Swamp. It is a nationally and internationally recognized old growth swamp forest that has received numerous distinctions.

We believe that DHEC’s approval of this wetland fill amounts to a fundamental failure to apply either the letter or spirit of applicable environmental laws. If those laws mean anything, they must require some level of balancing between commercial and environmental interests, particularly as it relates to our coastal resources. When DHEC is willing to sacrifice 14 acres of high quality wetlands adjacent to one of the most important natural areas in our state, in exchange for an unnecessary landfill expansion, any concept of balance is lost.

Beyond this general principle, we will rely on a number of specific provisions which we believe DHEC ignored. For instance, our regulations provide that “certification will be denied if the proposed activity adversely impacts special or unique habitats.” This case will of course focus on the impact to Beidler Forest and Four Holes Swamp. Furthermore, this case again implicates the fact that South Carolina simply does not need additional landfill capacity. Permitted class 3 landfill capacity almost triples existing in-state disposal. DHEC continues to permit new landfills, while at the same time refusing to let old landfills die, universally granting expansion requests. A “feasible alternative” in this case is simply no action – no expansion – as additional landfill capacity is not needed. DHEC did not consider this possibility.

We are preparing for trial and anticipate trial will be held in March of 2015.

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Pawleys Island Church

This case involves a previous Consent Order of Dismissal in which SCELP represented individuals seeking to prevent filling of wetlands associated with construction activities. As a result of a negotiated settlement agreement, the Church agreed to leave half of the onsite wetlands in a preserved state. However, in 2014 the Church received authorizations to proceed with additional construction activities that would eliminate all of the remaining onsite wetlands. We have challenged those authorizations because they are inconsistent with and in violation of the Consent Order.

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Papas Island

This case involves a dock permit that is unusual and particularly egregious because of its location. In particular, DHEC has granted developers a permit to construct a dock from Pappys Island, a previously undeveloped 104-acre marsh island that is surrounded by the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge. The developers have also obtained a septic permit for the Island, and they seem to be intent on introducing unprecedented development into one of the most important undeveloped swaths of land in the State.

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Surface Water Withdrawal Act

SCELP served a case on September 9, 2014, that requests that DHEC overturn the parts of the Surface Water Withdrawal Act that allow industrial farms to withdraw large amounts of water entirely unfettered by a regulating permitting process. This means that while other landowners are losing their long standing water rights, industrial agriculture operations are being granted far superior rights with fewer restrictions, despite their use of extreme amounts of water.

DHEC filed a motion to dismiss and we filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in November, 2014. We are waiting for the Judge to set a hearing date for these two motions.

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Charlotte Sludge Case

DHEC recently granted the City of Charlotte a permit to dump its sewage sludge across thousands of acres of agricultural fields in Chester, Fairfield, Lancaster and York Counties. “Sludge” is the solid byproduct of wastewater treatment, and it contains basically everything that finds its way into Charlotte’s sewer system, including: pharmaceuticals, heavy metals, phosphorous, nitrates, and chemical pollutants. The sludge is applied to these fields as fertilizer, though Charlotte’s method of application – one mass spreading on top of the ground – is entirely incompatible with sound agricultural practice.

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Seabrook Inlet Relocation

The Seabrook Island POA proposes to relocate the Inlet by blocking the present Inlet with a wall of sand and excavating a new inlet through Captain Sam’s Spit. In particular, bull dozers would build a 2,250' long x 150'-200' wide x 10' tall wall of sand on the oceanfront beach between Kiawah Island and Seabrook Island, blocking the present location of Captain Sam’s Inlet. At the same time, bulldozers would dig a 15' deep ditch through Captain Sam’s Spit, connecting the Atlantic Ocean and the Kiawah River. This would serve as the new inlet. The purpose of the project is stated as erosion control on Seabrook Island.

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Pawleys Island Groin

We are challenging a permit issued to Georgetown County for construction of a groin on the south end of Pawleys Island. Groins are an outdated tool for addressing coastal erosion and are universally disfavored in the scientific community because of their known negative impacts on downdrift beaches. We are representing the Sierra Club, the League of Women Voters of Georgetown County, and the Coastal Conservation League in challenging this permit.

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New Cruise Ship Terminal

The S.C. State Ports Authority is seeking to construct a new, expanded cruise ship terminal at Union Pier in the heart of the historic district of downtown Charleston. On behalf of a coalition of community groups, SCELP filed a challenge to the state permit that authorizes construction of the new terminal in the Administrative Law Court and the case was assigned to Chief Administrative Law Judge Tripp Anderson.

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Marlboro County Landfill

MRR Sandhills, LLC, proposes to build a municipal solid waste landfill on the North Carolina border in Marlboro County. DHEC has issued two preliminary approvals: (1) demonstration of need; and (2) consistency with the county solid waste plan.

Marlboro County has appealed both of these approvals and they are pending in the Administrative Law Court. We filed a motion to intervene on behalf of Citizens for Marlboro County. Marlboro County ships its garbage to the Lee County Landfill and argues that there is no need for this landfill, and we are supporting the County’s argument.

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Greenville Water Systems

Greenville Water System (GWS) owns and operates two 30-inch raw water transmission mains for the purpose of transporting raw water from the Table Rock Reservoir in the South Saluda River to the GWS treatment plant in northern Greenville County. GWS proposes to construct an additional 7.8 mile, 42-inch raw water transmission main from the Table Rock Reservoir in Pickens County. The proposed construction route will cross the South Saluda River, Duck Creek, Matthews Creek, and numerous tributaries to the South Saluda River and Duck Creek for a total of at least 26 total river crossings. The proposed route will also cross three wetland areas associated with Matthews Creek. The construction of the project, according to GWS, will result in the filling of 0.332 acres of wetland and 0.2451 acres of open water. DHEC issued a water quality certification and permit for construction in navigable waters for the project.

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Arcadia Lakes

Roper Pond, LLC, owns a 15-acre tract on Trenholm Road in Richland County, bordering on the Town of Arcadia Lakes. Roper Pond proposes a high density apartment complex on the tract. The tract includes a nice shallow pond full of lily pads that is part of the Gills Creek watershed and runs through Arcadia Lakes. The development would excavate the pond to convert it to a stormwater detention pond. DHEC issued a stormwater permit to the developer and we appealed.

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Deerfield - Storm Water & Wetlands

Deertrack Golf, Inc., owns a golf course in a mature Surfside Beach development known as Deerfield Plantation. Deertrack has entered into a contract to sell the golf course property to Bill Clark Homes. Bill Clark proposes to develop 287 lots on half of the golf course property (the other half will be developed later). The POA's members are homeowners in a single-family home development that is surrounded by the golf course property. Most of the homes border the golf course. There is a long history of problems with flooding, and it appears that both the golf course and the residential development were built on former wetlands. DHEC/OCRM issued a storm water permit and coastal zone consistency certification for the development project. We have appealed for the POA.

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Kiawah Island Revetment

Kiawah Development Partners (KDP) applied for a permit for a 2,750-foot revetment on the Kiawah River at the south end of Kiawah Island. The purpose of the revetment would be to stop erosion and to stabilize the shoreline so that KDP can build a road to develop the narrow spit of land known as Captain Sam’s Spit.

OCRM denied most of the request, allowing only a 270-foot revetment along the edge of the parking lot at Beachwalker Park, the only public access on Kiawah. KDP appealed, and we appealed the 270' permit.

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Chem Nuclear Landfill

This is the on-going appeal of the renewal license for the low level radioactive waste landfill near Barnwell. The Chem Nuclear landfill has a convoluted history and is a symbol of SC’s status as the nation’s dumping ground. Opened in 1971, it is one of three low-level radioactive waste landfills in the country. It was limited to regional use and slated for closure in 1992, but the closure deadline was extended twice by former Governor Carroll Campbell, and then former Governor David Beasley scrapped the planned closure and opened the facility to the entire nation.

Under a law promoted by former Governor Jim Hodges, it is now limited to waste from the Atlantic Compact states of New Jersey and Connecticut, and a limited amount from other states.

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