Batesburg-Leesville leaders are looking at artificial wetlands as a way to lessen opposition from sports and environmental groups to its plan to double its sewage disposal.
A wetlands could be created on up to 20 acres adjoining the town sewer plant to handle wastewater coming from a chicken processing plant whose output is the main target of objections.
It’s a plan, town officials say, that would keep wastewater out of creeks that flow into the Edisto River, one of the most pristine waterways in South Carolina.
“We’re hoping this can take care of the concerns,” Mayor James Wiszowaty said. Artificial wetlands “can work, but the devil is in the details,” said Bob Guild of Columbia, a lawyer for the groups protesting the expansion.
The Sierra Club, Palmetto Paddlers, Friends of the Edisto and other groups want to protect a river popular for recreation from pollution they fear will come from the additional sewage that Town Hall is willing to handle.
A proposed partnership with neighboring Saluda County could double sewage disposal overseen by the town to as much as an estimated 1.8 million gallons a day.
That plan awaits approval from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, which will listen to comments about it at a hearing tonight. Foes are concerned the town would be overwhelmed by the additional waste, much of which comes from the poultry plant.
“We’re concerned the river will be seriously degraded,” Guild said. “We’ll fight this idea to the death.”
A wetlands could divert much of the wastewater to irrigate nearby farms and golf courses after treatment instead of sending it to the river, Wiszowaty said.
The site also could become a wildlife habitat, he said.
No price tag for its creation is known as some aspects of the idea are yet to be decided.
But most of the cost would be borne through fees that Saluda County would pay, town leaders say.
Some town residents worry that the plan would force higher utility bills, but Wiszowaty doesn’t want that to happen.
Opponents of the plan are pushing DHEC to ban the plan so that the wastewater continues to be sent to a sewer plant in Aiken, 25 miles southwest.
Sending it to Batesburg-Leesville — a partner with the Saluda area in a regional water plant on Lake Murray — would be cheaper since it requires nine miles of new sewer lines.
Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.