Since receiving a number of citizen tips regarding a suspicious discharge on the old naval-base in North Charleston, Charleston Waterkeeper has been following up on any leads that could provide more information about the situation.
The Clean Water Act serves as the primary statute preventing illegal discharges into the waters of the United States. Any discharge must be permitted by a regulatory agency that has been given such authority by the EPA. In South Carolina, the Department of Health and Environmental Control is the agency responsible for granting and regulating these permits.
Upon seeing what appeared to be the de-watering of a stormwater basin directly into the Cooper River, Charleston Waterkeeper immediately contacted DHEC to inquire about any permits allowing such activity. DHEC responded promptly by sending a representative to the site today to investigate the discharge further. We have discovered that the construction project is managed by the Charleston Naval Complex Redevelopment Authority (RDA) and has been contracted to Landmark Construction.
Dewatering is the removal of water from solid material or soil. This process entails draining water from “a riverbed, construction site, caisson, or mine shaft, by pumping or evaporation.” If the “dewater” is discharged directly or indirectly into the waters of the United States, a permit must be sought for this activity. Dewatering can significantly affect the water quality of a river especially when the discharge is from polluted groundwater or stormwater.
DHEC is working to determine whether the direct discharge was covered by any permits and will determine whether such actions were in violation of the Clean Water Act. We will report on any updates as we receive them.