South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

Slow but steady progress on the Reedy River
Posted: July 27, 2018

Background

In June 2017, The Graham Foundation and the Jolley Foundation seeded our Engaging the Reedy’s Forgotten Contamination Corridor project, which takes on the systemic issue of contamination and pollution along a stretch of the Reedy River located in Greenville’s Southernside community. Our main goal is to ensure development and execution of an appropriate cleanup plan for the Bramlett site, which is one of the worst contaminated properties in Greenville County.

Duke Energy, whose predecessor was the original polluter, has entered into a cleanup agreement for the site with DHEC, our state environmental agency. Bramlett is not the only problematic site in this part of the Reedy corridor, and our secondary focus is identification and remediation of other problem sites.

Year 1 Report

DHEC’s original timeline for the Bramlett cleanup was significantly pushed back by a property access dispute between Duke and CSX (the current owner of the site) and by Duke's decision to hire a new environmental consulting company at a pivotal point in the evaluation process. We therefore turned our attention to other problem sites in Southernside, and our most significant result so far relates to such a site.

Using Freedom of Information laws, onsite observations, and legal research, we were able to determine that an adjacent industrial site did not have the legally required measures to prevent polluted runoff from leaving the property and entering an adjacent wetland. DHEC had no idea of this Clean Water Act violation. As a result of our efforts, the site operator has been required to obtain an industrial stormwater permit, which requires correction of this pollution problem going forward and ensures a significant improvement of water quality in the Reedy.

As to the Bramlett site, after working thorough documentation dating back to 1994 and digesting thousands of pages of technical records, we began working with our groundwater contamination expert. In the spring, Duke proposed additional testing to better delineate the contamination plume, addressing many of the problems we had with prior testing on site. Presumably based at least in part on our project and the attention the Bramlett cleanup has received as a result, Duke is now undertaking important additional testing to address prior shortcomings.

A final delineation of the onsite contamination should be completed by the end of the year. The delay experienced in the first year of this process confirms that SCELP’s involvement is critical. Whether intentional or unintentional, the start-and-stop, behind-closed-doors nature of this process is perfect for breeding disinterest and resignation from stakeholders and the community. Without an entity with the knowledge and capital to track and push the process, a positive outcome would remain at best dubious.

Broader Picture – Unity Park

The significance and urgency of the Bramlett cleanup has been highlighted by the City of Greenville’s announcement of detailed plans for the $40M development of Unity Park. Unity Park will be sited on property immediately downstream of the Bramlett site, with the site’s primary discharge point being adjacent to the Park’s upstream boundary (see picture on the right).

The Park will straddle some of Greenville’s traditional African-American neighborhoods, including Southernside, and could be the catalyst for an unprecedented urban renaissance for these neighborhoods. We believe that cleaning up the Bramlett site is an important precondition for success.

A primary function of Unity Park will be to bring residents into more direct contact with the Reedy River and to improve the overall health of the River, yet these objectives are being pursued in the literal shadow of hazardous, unresolved land and water contamination. Proper remediation of the Bramlett site, in synergy with the development of Unity Park, has the potential to propel Southernside into a period of sustained revitalization. We have informed City leadership of the link between Bramlett and Unity Park and are in the process of bringing the City into the cleanup planning process.

In short, the Reedy’s contamination corridor seems forgotten no more and, while the ongoing river makeover is ever more central to Greenville’s urban renaissance - read the great coverage by Andrew Moore below, SCELP remains committed to facilitating a comprehensive cleanup of the Bramlett site for the benefit of the entire Southernside community.

Contact us to learn more or if you want to help with this project. Thank you.

Download available Restoring the Reedy_Greenville Journal 6.27.18

Aerial view of the Bramlett site

Entrance to the site

Litter in adjacent lots

Unity Park's planned location

Graphic visualization of park feature