SC inspectors: Pollutants entering the storm water system at the waste recycling facility

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) – In its latest inspection, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control rated Williamsburg Recyclings stormwater management program as unsatisfactory.

The findings were the result of a site visit on April 8, the same day a Live 5 investigation found that despite years of complaints and DHEC citations to the business, it was still operating.

At the time, the agency did not confirm the visit, but drone footage showed more people at the site than usual that morning.

More than 40 violations were noted in the report by CEC inspectors, including overfilling of raw material in pads when it was supposed to be processed after delivery, lack of required reports, and ongoing significant problems with odors and small insects flying

The owners of the facility claimed in a response to the state agency that the processing was interrupted by the arrival of an inspection group and do not agree that the material was overflowing.

Inspectors also made several observations of leaks from material stored in the stormwater collection system and found that contaminants are entering the stormwater collection system.

The report says the water flows into a ditch on site that flows through a river into Wittee Creek, a tributary of the Santee River basin.

Three samples taken at the site showed varying levels of E. coli from 104 Most Probable Number, 1034.4 MPN and 6212 MPN. Results at the discharge site showed it did not meet water quality standards, and the water also had a septic odor and appeared gray, according to the report.

The facility in its response claimed that their permit does not require sampling for E. coli and specifically denied that there was odor at the outlet.

“Right here and the area we were talking about is where my grandchildren and I walk,” said neighbor Janey Milligan.

These findings have deepened the concerns of the residents of the surrounding area.

I’m surprised, Travis Hughey said. I am amazed that it has taken so long for DHEC to recognize these things and who knows how long it will take before something is corrected.

To be honest with you, having never been to the site at all, I could not have imagined in my worst nightmare that it was as bad as what was described, Milligan said.

Inspectors also noted that the visit was hostile and there were safety concerns. Williamsburg Recycling acknowledged the hostility but disputes the latest claim.

At one point, Derrick Stanley told Ed Conway he wanted to punch him in the face, the response states. The facility also noted that the inspection did not end abruptly; at the end, the inspectors were talking about where they could go to get ice cream.

Three days after the inspection, DHEC finalized an administrative order finding that Williamsburg County had violated the South Carolina Pollution Control Act and its state land application permit.

DHEC issued a $23,000 fine but allowed the business to continue operating. Conway said that decision is being appealed.

There is still an additional pending enforcement order the facility is facing.

I just hope they have the courage to follow through and finally make decisions that benefit the citizens of South Carolina and not the permit violators, Hughey said.

Even if the problem were solved today. I don’t think I can rest easy because I know the history of this country and this country has been compliant for one minute and then non-compliant for a lot of it, Dennis Milligan said.

Neighbors have noted that little has changed in the past month, and they continue to see trucks entering the facility before 9 a.m., contrary to what the permit allows.

Hughey is also facing a lawsuit from the owners who claim he has hit truck drivers and trespassed on property, which he denies.

Charleston Water System, the business’s main customer, has a contract with Williamsburg Recycling through 2026 and generally sends two truckloads of sludge each weekday.

The contract includes a provision where the agency can limit or suspend the delivery of sludge if the facility is found to be in violation of the law.

We need time to review the documents and determine our path forward, Mike Saia, a representative for the Charleston Water System, said in a statement after Live 5 Investigates shared DHEC’s findings with the agency.

Williamsburg Recycling owner Suzanne Conway released this statement:

We are appealing the administrative order and responding to the inaccuracies in the CEC inspection report. We will have no further comment.

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