Withdrawn: H2O Blue will not move forward with industrial waste plant.
Twelve days before the end of public comments time, the Greenville-based company H2O Blue, LLC withdrew a permit request to the state to burn-off industrial wastewater at a facility near Clinton.
The evaporation plant was to have been built at the former Bagwell Construction property on Hwy 56, three miles north of the Clinton city center.
Some nearby residents were informed of the permit - and one month to comment on it - during the Fourth of July weekend.
Among the objections was the opinion that a chemical spill at the facility would trap residents of a historically Black community, Blakelyville, on a dead-end road.
The facility was opposed by the Laurens County Development Corporation: “...the recent news that H2OBlue is proposing an industrial wastewater evaporation facility on Highway 56 near Interstate 26 in Laurens County is disturbing; and ... in the opinion of the LCDC Board, this facility will deter future growth in the immediate area and will cause harm due to the odor to the businesses, residents, schools, nature trails, and parks in the area, all of which are not in the best interest of current or future development in Laurens County and the quality of life in the area.”
LCDC President/CEO Jon Coleman said the economic development agency was not notified of the business’ interest in Laurens County in advance.
“The 100 pound elephant in the room is the way to handle this is by properly zoning,” said Fountain Inn Mayor Sean Bell.
Cities have zoning, but Laurens County does not.
Subdivisions must be permitted, but there are no zones designated for residential, commercial or, in this case, waste disposal in Laurens County.
County Attorney Sandy Cruickshanks said the Laurens County Council doesn’t want to fight that battle again.
They were speaking at last Tuesday’s LCDC board meeting, which finished an hour before DHEC announced the permit application withdrawal by H2O Blue. There was no immediate indication if the company was simply going to apply somewhere else.
The LCDC board passed a resolution opposing the facility - officially designated a Hauled Wastewater Receiving and Evaporating Facility.
Randy Thompson, head of DHEC’s Water Bureau, said in a statement, “Accordingly, DHEC is withdrawing the draft permit that we placed on public notice July 2, 2021.”
The company declined comment on the permit application.
Nearby resident Mike Johnson told the Clinton City Council, meeting in emergency special session July 16, “We are concerned what they are bringing forward - what type of chemicals, what type of evaporation into our atmosphere.”
A community group hired as its environmental attorney Gene McCall, who has a Ph.D. in Environmental Health Engineering, is an assistant professor of engineering and adjunct professor of law at the University of South Carolina, and is a an adjunct professor of environmental engineering and earth science at Clemson University.
A legal defense fund was established at Arthur State Bank in Clinton.
The Clinton City Council authorized Interim City Manager Thomas Higgs to write a letter of concern to DHEC about the facility.
The Laurens County Legislative Delegation wrote a similar letter.
The letters of concern were asking for an on-site public meeting with DHEC and company officials about the evaporation facility. Cruickshanks said DHEC had agreed to have hearings, but dates were not set; in addition to being the county attorney, he is special legal counsel to the LCDC.
Cruickshanks said North Carolina does not allow these types of industrial wastewater disposal facilities.
The LCDC board was told there are two in South Carolina.
School District 56 Superintendent Dr. David O’Shields said H2O Blue’s efforts in Laurens County were “underhanded” and were “undermining efforts” to improve the greater Clinton-Joanna community. Clinton High School is a couple miles from the proposed facility (Hwy 56 to Springdale Drive to Hwy 72 at the Armory).
The proposed facility is less than a mile from Duncan Creek, the primary water source for the City of Clinton and and secondary water source for the Town of Whitmire.
Avid Naturalist and Presbyterian College professor Dr. Bob Bryan told the Laurens County Council July 13, “It is coming to South Carolina as part of our agreement to take waste from other states for a fee.”
LCDC CEO Coleman said July 20, “We have had nothing to do with this facility locating near Clinton, and no contact with them. It is not desired to be on the interstate.”
A major concern was odor.
But without a face-to-face meeting with DHEC officials, it was not totally clear what the extent of the odor would be. Critics said they had been told it would be a “paper mill” or “rotten eggs” odor radiating for 5 to 10 miles.
Clinton Mayor Bob McLean said at a July 13 public meeting, among other things, “I am concerned about the effect on our $9 million recreation complex.” It’s on the same highway as the industrial wastewater evaporation facility, which was proposed for two 400-gallon tanks operating 24 hours a day with no on-site chemist. In a Public Notice, DHEC said, in part, “This project triggers a major amendment to the 208 Water Quality Management Plan for the Non-Designated Area of South Carolina and comments on the proposed amendment are welcome.”
Although there are unanswered questions, DHEC’s permit-withdrawal announcement was met with appreciation last Tuesday; these comments are from the Laurens County Buzz:
Dr. and Mrs. Stephen Orr: “Many thanks to the 56 N community and the greater Clinton community for coming together to keep our environment and community free from potential industrial pollution. We would like to personally thank Gene McGee the experienced environmental attorney hired by a group of us, for jumping in and doing fact-based research and helping out cause. Lastly, many thanks to to Brenda Stewart for spearheading our fact-finding endeavors, environmental lawyer vetting, and for keeping us on target and focused to accomplish our goal!”
Chris and Edith Ann Grant: “We appreciate the city of Clinton and Laurens County and their respective councils, as well as local businesses who helped us seek information and answers to our concerns. Most importantly, we want to extend a special thanks to our neighbors who came together in a time of community need. This demonstrates the principles of what our great country was built upon. While we do not wish to discourage new economic opportunities that will strengthen our local economy, we do wish to protect our families, our friends, and our community.”
Mike Johnson, owner of Mi-Li Angus Farms: “As we look back at the past few days, we can stand in amazement at what can be accomplished when a group of people stand together as a strong group to fight for the common good of family, friends and community. Not to mention to meet a wrong head on and make it right. Thanks to all for your concern and willingness to help stop what could have been a disaster for Laurens County.”