Groups File 60-Day Notice of Clean Water Act Lawsuit Against Event Venue Over Massive Sediment Discharges into Pristine Waters
Posted: November 14, 2019
For immediate release
Years of sediment and stormwater runoff from construction of an event space near Lake Keowee has clogged creeks on Naturaland Trust and DNR properties and impaired downstream trout streams.
The South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP), on behalf Naturaland Trust and Trout Unlimited, has taken a major step toward Clean Water Act litigation against the owners and operators of the “Arabella Farm” event venue, located along Highway 11. The 60-day notice letter filed by SCELP lays out an egregious pattern of legal violations and pledges a lawsuit to remedy the resulting harm.
According to the notice, Clean Water Act violations at the venue have caused many tons of sediment to erode from the site, crossing onto and through Naturaland Trust property, and into tributaries of the Eastatoe River and Little Eastatoe Creek. The runoff is a major threat to these waterbodies and is detrimental to trout populations and related recreational activities in this sensitive and valuable natural area.
It is estimated that, over the last three years, hundreds of individual discharges of sediment and stormwater from the site have entered these Waters of the United States, with each discharge constituting a separate violation of the Clean Water Act.
Significantly, despite more than a dozen site visits and the imposition of corrective action from multiple regulatory agencies, downstream impacts have been extensive and continue to accrue, the groups allege.
“This situation is a stunning example of what can happen when a landowner simply ignores our important environmental laws and the repeated demands of government agencies to come into compliance with those laws,” said Michael Corley, Upstate Coordinator of SCELP.
“This landowner chose the worst location to exhibit this level of environmental disregard, because the Eastatoe is a rare gem in terms of the state’s limited trout habitat. The downstream waters impacted here are some of our most valuable in terms of recreation and ecology, and those values have been diminished for years because of this site,” said Greg Placone, local chapter president of Trout Unlimited.
"Naturaland Trust has a duty to protect and preserve the natural values of the properties in which we are entrusted. We acquired this property with federal funds in order protect the viewshed and the natural resources along Highway 11, a National Scenic Byway. Certainly, one of the last problems we expected in this ecologically sensitive area is to have a neighbor discharge large quantities of harmful sediment and mud into our sanctuary, choking our headwater streams and waterways,” said Mac Stone, Executive Director of Naturaland Trust.
Should the 60-day notice period expire without comprehensive corrective action, Naturaland Trust and Trout Unlimited intend to bring a lawsuit for these violations pursuant to the Clean Water Act.
Michael Corley, Esquire
South Carolina Environmental Law Project
The South Carolina Environmental Law Project protects the natural environment of South Carolina by providing legal services and advice to environmental organizations and concerned citizens and by improving the state’s system of environmental regulation.
Trout Unlimited is a national non-profit organization with 300,000 members and supporters dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds. Local Trout Unlimited volunteers operate in three South Carolina chapters and its members have supported the organization's mission in the Upstate for over forty-five years.
Naturaland Trust works to protect South Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains and special places in the Piedmont. It has worked for years to protect lands along the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Highway, U.S. Highway 11.