New court filing could put pause on coastal waterway development
MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCSC) - The South Carolina Environmental Law Project has filed a preliminary injunction against the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control to put a pause on developments with septic tanks near coastal waterways.
The injunction seeks a hearing on a lawsuit filed a few months ago by the South Carolina Environmental Law Project on behalf of the Charleston Waterkeeper and the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, two Lowcountry environmental organizations. They filed the suit against DHEC claiming the organization has not been monitoring hundreds of septic tanks and their impact on water quality.
If a judge grants this preliminary injunction, all proposed developments within 200 feet of coastal waterways will be put to a halt. That is, if they use a septic system for their water and sewage.
An example of this is two large residential subdivisions of more than 400 septic tanks coming next to the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge in Awendaw. Andrew Wunderley, executive director of Charleston Waterkeeper, says if that development moves forward, water quality and wildlife will suffer.
He says other waterways like James Island Creek and Shem Creek have had high levels of bacteria from septic tanks in the past and millions of dollars in state and federal funds had to be used to fix it. He says this injunction is crucial.
“We believe that’s necessary because of the irreparable harm that happens here,” Wunderley said. “If these permits are allowed to go forward and these developments are allowed to go forward and the septic tanks go in, it’s going to injure our coastal zone natural resources irreparably.”
If this injunction is granted, the original lawsuit would have a hearing. Wunderley says it could take years, but they’re hopeful that this can happen as soon as possible.
DHEC says it does not comment on pending litigation.
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