DHEC recently granted the City of Charlotte a permit to dump its sewage sludge across thousands of acres of agricultural fields in Chester, Fairfield, Lancaster and York Counties. “Sludge” is the solid byproduct of wastewater treatment, and it contains basically everything that finds its way into Charlotte’s sewer system, including: pharmaceuticals, heavy metals, phosphorous, nitrates, and chemical pollutants. The sludge is applied to these fields as fertilizer, though Charlotte’s method of application – one mass spreading on top of the ground – is entirely incompatible with sound agricultural practice.
In addition to the problems inherent in spreading toxic sludge, the "all at one time" manner that the City of Charlotte applies sludge represents a significant over-application. The result of this over-application has not surprisingly been runoff into adjacent water bodies. Indeed, DHEC has acknowledged an over-abundance of phosphorus and other pollutants extending well downstream from the sludge application area, though it refuses to attribute that problem to sludge.
SCELP has challenged the sludge permit in the Administrative Law Court and is representing two farmers whose health, livelihood and property value stand to be significantly diminished. We are in the process of conducting discovery in this case and expect a trial in late spring or early summer.
We resolved this case by settlement agreement in mid-2014. As a result of our efforts, the City of Charlotte is required to provide public notification on its website of its land application plan and the fields on which it proposed to spread the sludge. Public notice was not required by law or through the permit.
The Seabrook Island POA proposes to relocate the Inlet by blocking the present Inlet with a wall of sand and excavating a new inlet through Captain Sam’s Spit. In particular, bull dozers would build a 2,250' long x 150'-200' wide x 10' tall wall of sand on the oceanfront beach between Kiawah Island and Seabrook Island, blocking the present location of Captain Sam’s Inlet. At the same time, bulldozers would dig a 15' deep ditch through Captain Sam’s Spit, connecting the Atlantic Ocean and the Kiawah River. This would serve as the new inlet. The purpose of the project is stated as erosion control on Seabrook Island.
We challenged a permit that would authorize the construction of 2,150 feet of force main pipe that would carry sewage over critical area salt marsh. The project is part of Charleston Water System's plans to fill in 8 to 10 acres of salt marsh to expand the sewage treatment facility on Plum Island in Charleston County.
SCELP has filed a challenge to a permit issued by DHEC’s Office of Ocean & Coastal Resource Management (OCRM) to Debordieu Colony Community Association (DCCA) authorizing the construction of three groins on Debidue Beach. Groins are erosion control structures constructed perpendicular to the beach, typically in an effort to protect beachfront houses. The proposed Debidue groins would be constructed of an aluminum sheetpile wall, concrete fill and bolstered with granite rock, and would extend approximately 300 feet into the ocean.
The Angel Oak was putting out leaves and dropping acorns for a thousand years before Columbus first stepped on shore. It is the oldest tree east of the Rocky Mountains. For those who have not had the pleasure of visiting the Tree, its grand statute is difficult to comprehend. The main trunk is over 25.5 feet in diameter. Extending out from this trunk are several main branches that are themselves the size of other ancient live oak trees. The branches expand out and sag to the ground in many spots under their own great weight. In total, the tree spreads out over 17,100 square feet of earth.
B & M Properties and Kenneth and Angela Moss applied for after-the-fact permits to fill in critical area salt marsh in connection with a bulkhead in Horry County. Moss represented Wayne Hill in our recent SC Supreme Court win where Hill illegally filled in salt marsh when he constructed his bulkhead. The after-the-fact permit was denied by DHEC/OCRM and we filed a motion to intervene to defend the agency’s decision.
Jasper Station, LLC, owns approximately 80.0 acres in Jasper County, of which 30.0 acres are “isolated” wetlands. Because the wetlands are deemed “isolated” by the Corps of Engineers, no Clean Water Act Section 404 permit is required. However, a coastal zone consistency certification is required before filling in the 30.0 acres of isolated wetlands as part of Jasper Station’s stormwater permit.
In 2006 the SC Department of Transportation (DOT) proposed to widen causeways and construct four new bridges for US Highway 601 within the Congaree National Park, South Carolina’s only National Park. The project would fill wetlands that are part of a renowned ecosystem and ignored several environmental concerns including the blockage of sheetflow across the floodplain, disruption of animal migration resulting in deaths, habitat fragmentation, and altered hydrology of the floodplain.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approved a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) based on a limited Environmental Assessment (EA) which meant they were not required to give a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). We filed suit in Federal District Court to challenge the FONSI and lack of an EIS.
A citizens group called Chesterfield Environmental Coalition, Inc., requested SCELP’s assistance in the appeal of an agricultural permit. The permit authorized two brooder turkey houses, as well as the disposal of the manure through a manure broker. The turkey farm would have produce 150,000 birds per year, generating 390 tons of waste per year.
The proposed turkey farm is located in Chesterfield County and is surrounded by several widely-used public recreation areas. These public recreation areas consist of the Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge, the Sandhills State Forest, which includes the H. Cooper Black Field Trial and Recreation Area used for national field trials, and the Cheraw State Park, which includes a public golf course. The Sandhills State Forest is adjacent to the proposed Turkey Farm. The State Park and its golf course are approximately one mile away from the proposed facility. The Boy Scouts of America also has a nationally recognized camping facility approximately one mile from the farm. The Boy Scouts camp has a lake used for swimming by the campers and the lake is fed from a stream that originates at a wetland that is adjacent to the proposed turkey farm.
Home owners in the Colony Pointe community of Debordieu sought a permit allowing them to dredge the canals within that area. Dredging in Debordieu has been prohibited since 1998 by a court order that was issued in response to a similar permit sought by the entire Debordieu community at that time. SCELP represented the League of Women Voters and the Sierra Club in an attempt to enforce the 1998 court order and to disallow dredging in the Colony Point neighborhood.
DHEC issued two decisions: (1) modifying the permit for the existing county landfill to raise its annual disposal rate to 400,000 tons per year, and (2) approving a “demonstration of need” for a new landfill also at 400,000 tons per year. We challenged both of these decisions in the Administrative Law Court in August of 2011.
Greenville Water System (GWS) owns and operates two 30-inch raw water transmission mains for the purpose of transporting raw water from the Table Rock Reservoir in the South Saluda River to the GWS treatment plant in northern Greenville County. GWS proposes to construct an additional 7.8 mile, 42-inch raw water transmission main from the Table Rock Reservoir in Pickens County. The proposed construction route will cross the South Saluda River, Duck Creek, Matthews Creek, and numerous tributaries to the South Saluda River and Duck Creek for a total of at least 26 total river crossings. The proposed route will also cross three wetland areas associated with Matthews Creek. The construction of the project, according to GWS, will result in the filling of 0.332 acres of wetland and 0.2451 acres of open water. DHEC issued a water quality certification and permit for construction in navigable waters for the project.
In 2006 the SC Department of Transportation (DOT) proposed to widen causeways and construct four new bridges for US Highway 601 within the Congaree National Park, SC’s only National Park. The project would fill wetlands that are part of a renowned ecosystem and ignored several environmental concerns including the blockage of sheetflow across the floodplain, disruption of animal migration resulting in deaths, habitat fragmentation and altered hydrology of the floodplain.
Jerry Risher applied for a critical area permit to construct a vehicular bridge across intertidal saltwater wetlands to access a 0.3 acre island located off Fripp Island. Under the new Access to Small Islands Regulations which became effective in 2006, bridge permits for a coastal island less than one acre in size are prohibited.
Cliffs Communities proposes to build a golf course community on a 5,000 acre tract in Greenville County, along the North Saluda River. The golf course was planned by Gary Player and the design calls for the piping, bridging (24 crossings by bridges and “play overs”), impounding, and other alterations of the river and its tributaries. We have appealed a storm water permit and a permit for a sewage system that will have a high ground discharge.
Smith Land Company purchased a lot near Litchfield Country Club in Georgetown County. Plats for the lot show a portion of the lot as under water, and Smith Land Company obtained a wetland delineation saying that other portions of the lot were wetlands. The pond and wetlands are part of a Carolina Bay, a unique wetland formation. After deciding that the wetlands and pond are “isolated” and not subject to the jurisdiction of the Corps of Engineers, Smith filled in the wetlands and pond.
In the early 1990s, we represented the Georgetown County League of Women Voters in the appeal of a permit for 22 docks for a development at the south tip of Litchfield Beach. We settled the case for reduction to 11 docks and a conservation easement over property south of the development. John L. Irvin #7, LLC, filed this current action claiming ownership of the property covered by our conservation easement. The associations are residents of the development and an adjoining development. We have been allowed to intervene on behalf of the League and the associations.
C & D Management Company applied for and obtained a permit to construct a construction and demolition waste landfill in the City of Rock Hill. York County and a local resident, Barbara Polk, appealed. Barbara Polk later withdrew as a party and the Nazareth Baptist Church was allowed to intervene to replace Ms. Polk.
In 2003, Wedgefield Plantation Association (“Wedgefield”) applied for a navigable waters permit, coastal zone consistency certification and water quality certification to dredge canals within Wedgefield and place the spoil material in 14.92 acres of wetlands.
A development group, Spectre, LLC, requested a state permit and coastal zone certification to fill 31.76 acres of wetlands on a 62.93 acre tract of land in Murrells Inlet in Horry County. The request would have converted this almost 32 acre cypress swamp into a large commercial development.
Working with Audubon South Carolina and the S.C. Wildlife Federation, SCELP filed an appeal of a permit that would allow excavation of 150 acres of sand from the eastern end of Kiawah Island that is used by the federally endangered Piping Plover. This endangered bird´s habitat would be destroyed to protect a golf course.
SCELP represented the Georgetown County League of Women Voters in the appeal of a coastal zone consistency certification to allow filling a 1.29 acre wetland for a redesigned golf course in Georgetown County. For projects like this, our Coastal Management Program only allows filling of wetlands one acre or less, unless there are no feasible alternatives.
Under the Clean Water Act ("CWA"), the Corps of Engineers can issue nationwide permits ("NWP") for activities purportedly having minor impacts to waters and wetlands of the U.S. The CWA also gives DHEC authority to review these nationwide permits under a state certification program and allows DHEC to place additional conditions on them to ensure protection of wetlands. The federal Coastal Zone Management Act gives similar authority to OCRM.
Goat Island is a small slice of natural, pristine beauty in Charleston County. The island does not have any serviceable roads and the residents enjoy the quiet, relaxed lifestyle of the island due in large part to difficulty accessing the island – the islanders transport all their goods by boat.
On behalf of the Winyah Rivers Foundation, SCELP has challenged DHEC´s certification of a project that would rip through more than 14 acres of beautiful, mature forested wetlands and floodplains across pristine Lane´s Creek and the Black River – all in the face of evidence that alternative routes are available that would practically eliminate the environmental harm.
Colleton County´s proposed Buzz Aldrin Business and Technology Park requested to fill in almost 30 acres of isolated freshwater wetlands for a commercial development. SCELP asked DHEC to deny the permit because it was entirely inconsistent with coastal protection laws, and the agency did in fact deny the permit. Colleton County appealed, challenging the validity of the Coastal Management Program – a program designed to protect isolated wetlands in the coastal zone.
Wedgefield Plantation Homeowners Association ("WPHA") applied for a permit to dredge the man-made canals within the community, and to place the dredged material in 15 acres of freshwater wetlands adjacent to the Black River in Georgetown County.
This case is an appeal of a permit issued to Charles E. Cox/Creekside Cottages to fill wetlands that drain into Parsonage Creek in Murrells Inlet. SCELP is representing the SC Coastal Conservation League, the League of Women Voters of Georgetown County, and Murrells Inlet residents, Chip Smith and Hobie Kraner, in this appeal.
This was an appeal of a permit issued to Inlet Oaks Development Corporation for the dredging of a canal, bulkheading, several docks and relocation of a boat ramp in a dead-end, man-made canal off Main Creek in Murrells Inlet. We represented the Leage of Women Voters of Georgetown County and the SC Coastal Conservation League.
We represented the SC Coastal Conservation League in a state court citizens suit against Dewey Wise for violations of coastal critical area permitting requirements at Fenwick Island in the ACE Basin. Mr. Wise removed an old bridge and placed fill dirt in saltwater critical area to create a causeway, all without a required state permit. We believed the causeway should be removed and the area restored.
On behalf of the SC Coastal Conservation League, we are appealing OCRM's issuance of a permit to construct a cartpath across public trust tidelands to a small marsh island in Mt. Pleasant, Charleston County. The project does not comply with OCRM regulations and we believe that this permit could lead to evading the regulatory requirements and the development of small marsh islands.
SCELP is local counsel working with the Southern Environmental Law Center to represent the SC Coastal Conservation League and the Waccamaw Audubon Society in a potential suit for violations under the Clean Water Act that occurred during construction of Phase I of the Carolina Bays Parkway.
The DeBordieu Colony Community Association applied to OCRM for a permit to dredge sand from a sandbar in public waters in pristine North Inlet for beach renourishment. SCELP assisted the SC Coastal Conservation League, the Sierra Club, and the League of Women Voters of Georgetown County in opposing this project. A public hearing was held on December 17, 2003 where citizens voiced their concerns about the negative impacts associated with dredging in North Inlet.
After the 2001 Supreme Court decision, Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, took away federal jurisdiction over isolated freshwater wetlands, the state's ability to regulate these wetlands has faced legal challenges. In a recent case, the state's authority to regulate these wetlands was under attack, but the developer eventually dropped these claims. Click on Update below for more information on this case.
We have been assisting a commercial shellfisher in protecting his shellfish lease area from violations of the SC Coastal Zone Management Act. The violator has formally agreed to remove the unpermitted structure and restore the disturbed area.
Can a family own the beach, creeks, canals, and marshes of Cherry Grove in North Myrtle Beach? In this case, the Perrone family claims to own the "critical areas" of the state's northernmost developed beach/estuarine resort area. SCELP represents the SC Coastal Conservation League and Sierra Club in helping the state defend this challenge to the Coastal Zone Management Act.
In 1997, we represented 6 groups who were sued by a bankrupt developer who was seeking to overturn part of a 1979 settlement of a suit over the original Wando River port terminal in Mt. Pleasant, Charleston County. We successfully negotiated another settlement that obtained conservation easements along a large amount of waterfront along Wando River and one of its tributaries, Rat Hall Creek.
In a series of cases, several Administrative Law Judges have issued decisions holding that persons who use an effected resource lack standing to challenge permits that impact those resources. SCELP is pursuing appeals of two of those cases, hoping to get favorable rulings from the Supreme Court correcting the ALJ's ideas of standing.
Challenge (on behalf of local group, Round Swamp Concerned Citizens) to permit for open-pit de-watered limestone mine in area prone to sinkholes. This case is pending in state court in Horry County. The legal issues are whether the SC Mining Council has legal jurisdiction to hear our appeal of a coastal zone consistency certification for the mine, whether the Mining Council erred in dismissing our appeal, and whether the Mining Council's appeals process violates constitutional rights.
In 1985, a permit was issued for construction of an enormous marina on Daufuskie Island, but to date the marina has not been built. The permit has been renewed several times. In 2000, the SC Coastal Conservation League attempted to have input into the renewal process, but the agency renewed the permit without notifying the League. On behalf of the League, SCELP is now challenging this renewal. Our latest appeal is pending in the South Carolina Court of Appeals.
In 1990 when Myrtle Trace, a community located near Conway, was developed, a buffer area was set aside as a nature preserve and mitigation for wetlands filled by the developer, International Paper (IP). This land also served as a buffer area between the Myrtle Trace residential development and the Conway Hospital complex. The property was later sold to another developer, Hospital Land Partners Realty, who proposed to develop the 8.5 acre tract of land that was set aside by constructing an assisted living facility. SCELP assisted a neighborhood group in overturning this permit and we were successful. DHEC and the Court of Common Pleas ruled that the 1990 set-aside of the land was binding and denied the requested permits.
Appeal of permit for groin construction on Hilton Head Island beach, Beaufort County; in 2001, we won this case in the SC Court of Appeals; however, an appeal in the SC Supreme Court had this decision overruled.
Property purchasers at Big Landing were promised that no private docks would interfere with their view of pristine marshes and creeks; the developer later asked the state to amend a permit to allow for private docks; SCELP is now handling the appeal of the permit modification which removes the restriction on dock construction for this Horry County development.
In 1998, SCELP filed an appeal of permits for wetland fill, bridging, and development of a filled-in marsh area in North Myrtle Beach; our clients are two groups and a large number of individuals loosely allied as neighbors; after winning our permit appeal, we negotiated a successful settlement that preserves about one-third of the proposed development area as a public recreation area; the file is open now only for monitoring compliance with the settlement conditions.
After 15 years of legal proceedings, in 2000 SCELP finally won the Sierra Club's appeal of the permit for this hazardous waste landfill, located on the shores of Lake Marion in Sumter County, and the landfill is now closed. The landfill filed suit in Federal Court, but so far we have defeated all efforts in that case. The landfill company is now in bankruptcy.