South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

Clean Water Act Lawsuit Launched Against Pickens County Event Venue
Posted: April 7, 2020

For immediate release

Years of sediment and stormwater discharges from an event venue located along Highway 11 have clogged and degraded valuable water resources.

GREENVILLE, SC — Upstate Forever, Naturaland Trust and South Carolina Trout Unlimited have taken legal action against the owners and operators of a Pickens County event venue over violations of the Clean Water Act and related property and environmental damage.

Since 2017, hundreds of unlawful discharges of sediment-laden stormwater originating from the Arabella Farm event venue have flowed directly into adjacent streams and downstream into the Eastatoe River, Little Eastatoe Creek and Lake Keowee, according to the complaint filed Monday, April 6, 2020 in the U.S. District Court in Greenville. This sediment has blanketed and choked important water resources supporting the area’s trout population and related recreational activities.

Large quantities of sediment emanating from the site have also settled onto properties owned by Naturaland Trust. The affected properties were acquired by Naturaland Trust because of their significant environmental values, and the properties are protected in perpetuity by a conservation easement, held by Upstate Forever, that is designed to ensure protection of the important natural resources contained on the site.

Significantly, despite more than a dozen site visits and the attempted imposition of corrective action from multiple regulatory agencies, downstream impacts have been extensive and continue to accrue, the groups allege.

The conservation organizations are represented by the South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP), a nonprofit environmental law organization.

“This site is one of the most egregious, long-lasting examples of stormwater mismanagement that I’ve seen in my career, and all the resulting damage has occurred in an area of the highest recreational and environmental value,” said SCELP Upstate Director Michael Corley.

The organizations seek compliance with the Clean Water Act, a monetary penalty and recovery of legal fees.

Greg Placone, Vice-Chair of South Carolina Trout Unlimited and President of the Mountain Bridge Chapter of Trout Unlimited, said: “The Eastatoe River is a scenic, natural wonder on public land, and Trout Unlimited members have volunteered thousands of hours to preserve and protect that coldwater resource for all to use and enjoy. Arabella Farm’s owners blatantly disregarded the law by causing silt to dump into the Eastatoe and Little Eastatoe Creek. Without this litigation, these destructive actions would leave us, the public, to clean up their mess and repair the damage they caused in order to return the Eastatoe and Little Eastatoe Creek to their rightful place as top-tier trout habitats. Unfortunately, this litigation also brings to light a troubling trend of careless developers. The Arabella Farm landowners’ abuse of the so-called ‘agricultural use’ exemption is the latest, and most detrimental, occurrence in a pattern of sidestepping the stormwater permitting laws in this state, abuses which collectively cause untold harm to our state’s rivers and fisheries. Filing this litigation underscores that Trout Unlimited will stand-up for public land and fight to preserve, protect and restore South Carolina’s precious coldwater resources.”

Mac Stone, Executive Director of Naturaland Trust, said: "Naturaland Trust protected this forest and its headwater streams for the benefit of the public. Its clean water flows into a trout fishing stream and public drinking supply. As the owners and stewards of this natural resource, we feel an obligation to protect it from ongoing pollution."

Andrea Cooper, Upstate Forever Executive Director, said: “Safeguarding water quality is at the core of Upstate Forever’s mission. As custodians of the conservation values of the impacted eased property, it is our responsibility to ensure that its natural resources are protected.”

Media contact:
Michael Corley, Esquire
Upstate Director
South Carolina Environmental Law Project
[email protected]
(864) 412-7921

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.

Upstate Forever is a nonprofit conservation organization that protects critical lands, waters, and the unique character of Upstate South Carolina.

Download available Arabella Complaint