June 21, 2022

Troubled Water: From Gadsden Creek to Toxic PFAS - June 2022 E-News

Dear Friend,

Summer officially began on Tuesday and we've already seen record-high temperatures around the state. Our climate is changing and it is affecting nearly every aspect of our lives here in South Carolina. The need for plenty of clean and safe water grows - and our June E-News highlights several cases and issues across the state where we're working to defend the most critical resource we have.

Your Lawyers for the Wild Side spent a full week in Administrative Law Court in Columbia earlier this month defending Gadsden Creek. The permit issued to fill the creek not only violates DHEC's own critical area regulations and important statutory and controlling policies, it also continues a long cycle of environmental injustice by seizing what is left of a once vibrant and still important natural resource in the historic Gadsden Green neighborhood. Read on for more about the hearing.

We were thrilled to read the news about the EPA's new drinking water health advisories for PFAS chemicals. These harmful "forever chemicals" are a growing public health issue, especially for those living in frontline and vulnerable communities, and the new federal initiative only makes our own Rural Drinking Water case all the more relevant.

I hope to see you at this year's Wild Side event on Saturday, September 17. Tickets go on sale July 1, so watch for more information on how to join us for this great evening of food, live music and fellowship.

Gadsden Creek's Five Days in Court

A white egret rests in Gadsden Creek | Photo by Allston McCrady

The eventual fate of Gadsden Creek, one of the last remaining tidal creeks on the Charleston peninsula, was at the center of a hearing held June 6-10 in Administrative Law Court in Columbia.

Ben Cunningham and Lauren Megill Milton spent the week defending Gadsden Creek, one of the last remaining tidal creeks on the Charleston peninsula, on behalf of the grassroots organization Friends of Gadsden Creek. They introduced and questioned our expert witnesses, cross-examined WestEdge Foundation's experts and pushed back against opposing attorneys' claims.

According to Cunningham, "We were pleased to present our case at the ALC throughout the week and will be submitting a proposed order based upon the facts of the case and the applicable law. We thank all of our witnesses for taking the time to provide their testimony to the Court, including several members of Friends of Gadsden Creek and our expert witnesses, Professor Christina Butler and Joshua Robinson, P.E."

It will take a few months before we have a decision in this case, but we feel good about the strong defense put up for Gadsden Creek and the entire Gadsden Green community. Read more...

A Troubling Mitigation Project

Point Farm is located on the southwestern tip of Wadmalaw Island

On behalf of the Coastal Conservation League, we recently intervened in the appeal of the Charleston County Board of Zoning Appeals’ (BZA) decision to deny two variance requests that the Point Farm developers say are necessary for the creation of a saltwater mitigation bank on Wadmalaw Island.

This is a controversial wetlands mitigation project, made worse by the requested destruction of a grand live oak tree and encroachment into an existing protected buffer. The project would eliminate a valuable freshwater pond and wetland system and secure a financial windfall for the proponents, with Charleston County having already purchased nearly $20 million in mitigation credits for future road projects.

Stay tuned for more updates on this case, coming soon! Read more...

New Advisories on Dangerous PFAS in Drinking Water

Dangerous PFAS compounds are found in drinking water, as well as many consumer products

And we were thrilled, and somewhat concerned, to read the news about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's new drinking water health advisories for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), as well as the new limits they've placed, which cut lifetime exposure limits to a very small fraction of what was previously thought to be safe. The 70 part-per-trillion advisory introduced in 2016 for PFOA and PFOS is miniaturized to 0.004 and 0.02, respectively!

These and related harmful "forever chemicals" - over 5,000 compounds that remain in the human body and the environment and accumulate over time - are a major and growing public health issue. Recent studies found associations between PFOA and PFOS exposures and effects on the immune system, cardiovascular system, developmental issues with infants and cancer.

Right here in South Carolina, we have already been tackling this alarming and persistent issue. After learning how dozens of residents in Darlington County had private wells contaminated with PFAS from the sludge from the former Galey and Lord textile plant, which was sprayed onto surrounding farmland, we petitioned DHEC to change industrial sludge regulations.

DHEC recently agreed to initiate rule-making on this issue and you can rest assured we will continue advocating for better rules and safer water.

A Smart Way to Give Back this June

If you are 70.5 or over with a traditional IRA, have you used half of your RMD yet? With summer just beginning, SCELP is here to remind you of the tax benefits you receive when you make a charitable impact from your retirement account.

Take 5 minutes to make your IRA rollover contribution today.

Thank You, Externs!

From left to right: Blakely, Steven and Hannah

Every summer we are lucky to get some extra help from law students from around the country. Here's a shout out and a thank you to the Summer 2022 externs!

Blakely, a 1L student at Texas A&M Law School who is originally from Thomasville, North Carolina, recently completed her externship. Blakely graduated from Western Carolina University with a B.S. in Environmental Science. Blakely enjoyed her time with SCELP and is "honored to have served the land, animals and people throughout the state."

Steven, a 1L student at Tulane University Law School, is originally from Carlisle, Massachusetts. Steven graduated from William & Mary in 2020 with a degree in Public Policy. During college, he interned at the Capital, at a Boston lobbying firm and a non-profit that supports veterans dealing with PTSD-related issues. Fun fact about Steven: He can sing and play five instruments!

Hannah, a 1L student at University of Georgia Law School, is from Charleston, South Carolina. Hannah graduated from Clemson University in 2020 with a degree in Conservation Biology. As an undergraduate, Hannah helped with conservation projects in Madagascar, Montana, Georgia and South Carolina. She is excited to return to the Lowcountry and continue serving her home state.

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