H2O Blue no more
The Clinton area has beaten an attempt to burn off industrial wastewater 3 miles from the city center.
Today (July 20), people concerned about the proposed evaporation plant got a notice that said H2O Blue withdrew their permit application to DHEC’s Bureau of Water for a no discharge permit for the proposed hauled wastewater receiving and evaporation facility that, if permitted, would have been located on Hwy 56 near Clinton. Accordingly DHEC is withdrawing the draft permit placed on public notice on July 2, 2021.
The business - about which some nearby people got notice during the July 4th Weekend - was a subject of concern from the Laurens County Legislative Delegation.
It was the subject of a concern letter from City of Clinton Interim City Manager Thomas Higgs. The city council authorized the letter in a called meeting this past Friday.
Opposition also was expressed at a meeting of the Laurens County Council.
Just before the DHEC notice of withdrawal was sent out, the Board of Director, Laurens County Development Corporation passed an opposition resolution about H2O Blue.
A citizens’ group that grew out the business location-permit application had retained an environmental lawyer - Gene McCall.
“I’m glad concerned citizens will fight this permit and hope that others will join in opposition.”
Grassroots opposition grew from a July 13 meeting at The Clinton House. DHEC announced the permitting process July 1, and Aug. 1 was the deadline for public comments to be received in Columbia. It was not immediately clear if H2O Blue, LLC would simply move to somewhere else in South Carolina for its permit.
Article prior to permit application being withdrawn:
Wastewater Plant filled with “unknowns,” critics say
By Vic MacDonald
Too many unknowns.
That is why a coalition of citizens and local government is joining to insist that the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control conduct an on-site meeting related to an industrial wastewater evaporation facility that it is going to get a permit near Clinton.
The facility will be on the old Bagwell Construction property.
Critics say the Hwy 56 site is too close to neighboring homes, “traps” a community on a nearby dead end road in case of a chemical spill, greatly increases heavy truck traffic at any already busy intersection and, potentially, could threaten groundwater. To get DHEC to show up, it’s going to take expressed concern.
“It does come down to numbers,” said project critic Pam Orr.
She was speaking at a July 13 hastily called citizens’ meeting at The Clinton House, an outdoor recreation venue about a mile from the industrial wastewater facility.
State Representative Stewart Jones said after that meeting he would write a letter to DHEC insisting on a delay for the project’s permitting process. The letter went out July 14. The application was submitted June 3, 2019, according to a July 1, 2021 DHEC letter.
On July 2, the draft permit was placed on public notice.
A copy of the letter is stapled to a post at a driveway at the facility site. Nearby residents got the letter the Fourth of July weekend.
It identifies the facility as H2O Blue, LLC Hauled Wastewater Receiving and Evaporation Facility, 13233 Hwy 56 North, Clinton.
Government officials attending last Tuesday’s meeting said the company (LLC is limited liability corporation) has not reached out to them or any economic development group in Laurens County. Meeting the same night in Laurens, the Laurens County Council was told there basically is nothing they can do - a State Permit trumps a local resolution or ordinance.
“We need to make an informed decision,” said Clinton Mayor Bob McLean.
The city council met Friday about the matter.
The mayor is concerned that odor will make its way about a mile south to the City’s new $9 million recreation complex, also on Hwy 56. Farther north are the Battle of Musgrove Mill State Historic Site and the prize-winning Musgrove Mill Golf Course.
McLean said city officials - there were four attending the July 13 public meeting - just do not know enough about the business to be opposed or in favor. McLean said Clinton is business-friendly, but the main thing he insists on when prospects come in is that the business does not stink.
The site falls just outside City of Clinton zoning.
People who have contacted DHEC have gotten mixed messages about whether industrial wastewater evaporation stinks.
The facility will have two 400 gallon evaporators for disposal (800 gallons per hour), it will run 24 hours with no chemist on-site, it will have three groundwater monitoring wells for an eight-acre tract. People at the meeting said those wells are checked every six months.
“The facility is not permitted to receive or treat hazardous waste,” the DHEC letter says. An accompanying document says, “The 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.”
Critics says they don’t know enough about that “trigger” or the “amendment” to make informed comments.
“When you talk to DHEC and you hear doubt in their voice, that should tell you something,” said facility neighbor Mike Johnson.
A DHEC official said between July 1 and July 13 there had been 10 phone called received about the permit.
Comments close on Aug. 1.
That’s why the group met - it has established a Facebook page, Keep Laurens County Clean. The group wants to mobilize people and governments to contact this man: Randy Thompson, DHEC, Bureau of Water.
State Representative Doug Gilliam said he has made an inquiry. A DHEC official told him a public hearing could be conducted even after the Aug. 1 comments period ends.
“In Columbia,” Gilliam was challenged at the July 13 meeting.
“No, here. Not in Columbia,” Gilliam said.
After the industrial wastewater evaporates, what’s left behind is scooped from the tanks, mixed with sawdust, and taken to a landfill for disposal, according to the DHEC letter.
That means big, heavy trucks coming in with water and later other trucks leaving out with sludge. There is a Pilot gas station and truck stop near the site, along with three motels and the Blue Ocean Restaurant. Other fast food places are nearby. Hwy 56 connects by a frontage road with Hwy 72 where there is a new QT (Quick Trip).
Leaving Clinton on Hwy 56, headed toward the facility site, a motorist passes the Clinton Presbyterian Community, Countryside Apartments, the City’s recreation site, and a Milliken plant. Behind the truck stop there is a now-closed trash transfer station.
All this intersects with Interstate 26, at its “split” with Interstate 385.
Farther north from this site is Duncan Creek.
It is the primary water source for the City of Clinton and a secondary water source for the Town of Whitmire.
The City of Clinton has two “spec” buildings and is planning for a third at an industrial park that rear-borders Barrel Stave Road - its intersection with Hwy 56 is in front of the industrial wastewater evaporation business site. The Blakely community is nearby.
Laurens County does not have zoning, which could designate permissible areas for businesses like this.
The DHEC letter says the site will accept water “from various sources,” but critics question if this opens Clinton to the waste from industries in other states.
They say all this has been kept “very quiet” until the Fourth of July weekend.
They are sending DHEC an opposition petition. They are encouraging “civility” in phone and e-mail contacts with DHEC. They sent out 150 flyers. They are providing updates through Keep Laurens County Clean.
They are looking for an environmental lawyer.
Johnson said at the July 13 meeting, “We’re no experts here, we just know what we’ve been told.”
Wastewater evaporation is proposed for “the most lively intersection in Laurens County,” and “there will be some odor,” he said. H2O Blue, LLC is listed with the SC Secretary of State, but the Greenville-based firm declined to comment in a WSPA-TV report (video on MyClintonNews.com). All this is not instilling confidence in the affected neighborhood.
Site neighbor Tommy Dukes said July 13, “This is ground zero, I know there is going to be a spill.”