DHEC cites Carolina Water Service for another sewage violation

The lower Saluda River is popular for angling, paddling and other recreation as well as its scenery.
The lower Saluda River is popular for angling, paddling and other recreation as well as its scenery. File photograph

Carolina Water Service faces a fine of up to $10,000 for polluting the lower Saluda River with sewage April 6, the latest in a series of discharges that one group calls disturbing.

State environmental officials cited the privately-owned utility for what they said was failure to clean wastewater sufficiently before releasing it into the river at Saluda Shoals Park, according to a report made public Thursday.

An unknown amount of sewage went into the river partly because of poor upkeep of the company’s Friarsgate plant, a Department of Health and Environmental Control report said.

The plant serves about 3,300 homes and businesses in the Irmo area, according to state utility officials.

Company officials also failed to report the spill, which occurred following three days of rain that totaled 4.5 inches, the report said. The rainfall inundated some equipment and caused some machines to be shut off at the sewer plant, according to DHEC.

The problems were found during a routine inspection, it said.

Carolina Water Service will discuss the problems cited shortly with DHEC, said Tom Oakley, a spokesman for Utilities Inc., the Chicago-based corporate parent of the company. In the past, the company has said it is working to correct problems there.

The complaint about poor maintenance was the latest in a series against a company with a history of spills into the river.

Another Carolina Water Service sewage plant across the river needs $10 million in repairs, according to a study commissioned by Lexington town officials who are seeking to buy the facility.

That study came after a federal judge fined Carolina Water Service $1.5 million last month for violating pollution discharge limits and ordered the utility to tie into a regional sewer system in a year.

The latest problems “raise lots of questions about how this company runs sewer plants,” Congaree Riverkeeper Bill Stangler said. The river protection advocacy group is spearheading efforts to end the discharges.

Failure to report the spill is “really disturbing,” Stangler added.

The river is popular for angling, paddling and other recreation as well as its scenery.

Carolina Water Service also was recently fined nearly $80,000 for allowing poorly treated wastewater from its Irmo plant to go into the river last summer. That pollution put the river off limits for swimming for several weeks in mid-summer.

The plant releases wastewater into the river through a pipe that comes out near a boat landing at the park.

Carolina Water Service operates utilities scattered across South Carolina.

Tim Flach: 803-771-8483