Congaree Riverkeeper Initiates Clean Water Act Lawsuit

On November 4th, 2013 the Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of Congaree Riverkeeper, sent a Notice of Intent to Sue for Violations of the Clean Water Act to Carolina Water Service, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  The Notice alleges that Carolina Water Service's I-20 Wastewater Treatment Plant, which discharges into the Lower Saluda River, is violating its NPDES permit by repeatedly polluting the river with sewage discharges in excess of permit limits and by not connecting to a regional sewer system.

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 activities like swimming, wading, or paddling a potential health risk. Increased biochemical oxygen demand can reduce oxygen levels in the river, posing a hazard 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 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.

You can view the Notice Letter and Exhibit Package here:

Notice Letter

Exhibit Package

You can also read an article in The State newspaper by clicking on the photo below.