SPARTANBURG COUNTY, SC – Multiple homeowners association groups are challenging the South Carolina Administrative Law Court’s decision to reinstate a permit for a proposed RV park in northern Spartanburg County, near Campobello. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) initially approved the septic tank permit, but after the groups asked for review of the decision, the DHEC Board overruled the staff’s decision on the permit and revoked it. The DHEC Board determined that the developer’s septic system design did not meet the DHEC regulations for capacity. The developer sought to overturn the DHEC Board’s decision and filed an appeal with the Administrative Law Court.
The South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP) is now representing these groups in their appeal of the Administrative Law Court decision, which was based on the judge’s opinion that the community members’ request for final review was not timely. SCELP argues that DHEC’s failure to comply with the Freedom of Information Act and its obligation to notify our clients, who submitted a written request for information under the Act, created the timeliness issue upon which the Court relied to return the permit to the developer. DHEC’s actions, solely, shut the public out of the process and prevented their ability to seek legal recourse.
“Members of these communities sent in FOIA requests to DHEC, specifically to the septic tank division, and despite the fact that they had a permit request, it took 3-6 months for them to get a response,” said Leslie Lenhardt, Senior Managing Attorney at SCELP. “The continued lack of transparency by DHEC when it comes to offering public notice of septic tanks continues to be problematic across the state.”
The proposed development would utilize 38 acres of land off of Landrum Mill Road. The area which surrounds the proposed park is comprised of nearly 5,000 acres with conservation-focused restrictive covenants, and over 1,000 acres are under formal conservation easements with Upstate Forever and Conserving Carolina. The park would host 48 recreational vehicles and have parking spaces for over 70 additional vehicles. Per DHEC standard calculations, more than two million gallons per year of human waste would be discharged into the ground adjacent to the conservation area.
“Many citizens of the Upstate stand to be impacted from the harmful and irreversible effects of the proposed RV park,” said Sally Rock, a representative from the Golden Hills of Fairview Homeowners Association. “The State of South Carolina determined that the developer’s septic system was too small to handle the millions of gallons per year of waste and pollutants that would be coming from this park. Yet the developer plans to move forward to construct its RV park with an inadequate system, risking irreparable harm to the Upstate – including citizens’ health, drinking water quality risks and environmental damage.”
In addition to the proposed development’s septic system being inadequate for the anticipated volume of waste, it will sit just above a creek which flows into the North Pacolet River, eventually reaching Lake Bowen, a watershed that is the primary source of drinking water for the City of Spartanburg. The creek flows through the properties with conservation easements, which are designed to preserve and protect such natural resources.
“We are grateful for SCELP’s assistance in protecting the drinking water of our conservation-focused community,” said Rock. “Their participation in this case is vital to protecting against a catastrophic failure of the septic system, which would have major impacts on the environment, drinking water and the beautiful surrounding land.”
Leslie Lenhardt, Esquire
Senior Managing Attorney, South Carolina Environmental Law Project