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DewateringSince 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.


The Beaufort County environmental watchdog organization, Friends of the River, is not slowing down for the holidays. Their job as “watchdog” over the many rivers and estuaries to our south is a 24/7/365 commitment.

The organization is proposing to submit a dock ordinance to state and local officials next month that would apply to rivers classified as “Outstanding Resource Waters.” This classification is given by the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to waters with “exceptional recreational or ecological importance or of unusual value.”

In Beaufort County there are four rivers classified as Outstanding Resource Waters: the May, Okatie, Colleton and New rivers. The proposed ordinance would limit the number of community docks at new developments, would require all new developments on the rivers to go through an environmental impact study (EIS), and would require any maintenance on current developments and docks to be subject to public review.

This move by the Friends of the River comes after DHEC approved the Pinckney Point development (which consists of 3 community docks, 30 boat lifts and a boat ramp) without hearing any of the 20 appeals made by the public.

DHEC did however scale the proposed development down a bit; the Pinckney development had originally proposed 76 homes and 70 boat lifts. DHEC found that this development would have significant impact on the quality of the waterways and thus found it to violate the Clean Water Act.

Friends of the River are demanding that DHEC do more to protect the health of our Lowcountry waterways.

Although we agree that a community presence on the water is essential to assuring that our waterways are protected, such a high concentration of activity can adversely affect the health of the entire ecological system. In this instance, the proposed development is located at the headwaters of the Okatie and Colleton rivers and thus would influence the health of both rivers in their entirety.

Delfin, one of Russia’s largest enterprises, specializing in the branding, mixing and packing of motor oil, transmission oils and automobile fluids, plans to expand their operations to the United States…North Charleston to be specific.

This Monday (12/08/08), the president of the company toured a 42-acre property on the banks of the Cooper River, which was purchased by the Delfin last year for $20 million. This Virginia Avenue property is projected to receive $55 million worth of improvements when Delfin is done renovating it. Already though, this retired Shell Oil Products plant has “several storage tanks, rail connections, office space and about 257,000 square feet of manufacturing and warehouse space.” (Not to mention a pier that extends 140 feet into the River.)

Delfin explains that the appeal of the Lowcountry was not the beauty nor the abundance of natural resources, but instead it was the advantages of the Cooper River facility, including an on-site shipping terminal. According to a recent article in the Post and Courier, Delfin USA “plans to spend tens of millions of dollars turning a North Charleston industrial terminal into a major oil-mixing and bottling hub.”