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SC bill aims to prevent plastic pellets in local waterways

Updated: Mar. 25, 2021 at 11:15 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - South Carolina lawmakers are considering a bill aimed at preventing plastic pellets from spilling into local waterways. The plastic pellets, known as nurdles, are the raw material used to create almost all common plastic products.

A Senate Medical Affairs subcommittee voted to approve the bill on Wednesday which would allow the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control to inspect facilities that package and transport the plastic pellets.

Sen. Sandy Senn, R- Charleston, is the bill’s sponsor and she says the pellets are a big problem in the Charleston area.

“The only other place we can find that has a worse nurdle problem in their waterways is the Gulf of Mexico by Texas where they are manufactured. Because of the rail opportunities here, they are being shipped over to South Carolina and packaged,” Senn said. “The way they are packaged is just not conducive. It’s getting into our waterways and you can’t get these things out of the water when they’ve gotten in. It’s next to impossible.”

The bill would also allow the state agency to fine facilities that are found to be polluting the local waterways with the pellets.

Recently, Frontier Lodge paid $1 million to environmental groups to settle a lawsuit over a 2019 nurdle spill on Sullivan’s Island.

Andrew Wunderley, Charleston’s Waterkeeper, says the issue is that there are no rules in place to stop companies that package the pellets from creating another spill.

“We do have laws that prevent spills from manufacturers of pellets but not for folks that are loading or shipping or transporting pellets,” Wunderley said. “This bill is important because it closes the loophole and levels the playing field, and it would cover folks who are moving nurdles through our waterways, packaging them into bags, or loading them into containers. So it would cover those sorts of activities.”

Wunderley says the plastic pellets have a host of chemicals included in them and are toxic to fish and wildlife. He believes this type of legislation could be the key to preventing the spills from happening.

The legislation will head to the full Senate Medical Affairs Committee.

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