Flow Of Filth: Investigation Shows What's Really In Your Creek - WSPA.com

Flow Of Filth: Investigation Shows What's Really In Your Creek

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ANDERSON COUNTY, S.C. -

7 On Your Side analyzed hundreds of federal records and dug through dozens of state documents to find a long history of violations by several Upstate wastewater treatment facilities.

In Anderson County, where water is world famous, Joel Saxon lives near a creek he won’t touch.

“It even has an odor to it,” Saxon said, “you can smell it.”

Big Generostee Creek flows across Anderson County eventually into the Savannah River.

The documents reviewed by 7 On Your Side showed repeated incidents of the creek flowing with dangerous chemicals and, sometimes, human waste.

A database maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency tracks records for thousands of South Carolina businesses and utilities. The “ECHO” database is for companies that have a federal permit to discharge into public waterways.

A permit holder would be listed as “in violation” of that permit if it were to exceed allowed limits on anything released into the water.

Of the hundreds of industries and utilities tracked in Anderson, Spartanburg and Greenville Counties 16 are currently “in violation”. Of those, half are wastewater treatment facilities.

That’s where sewage is piped in, treated and released into streams and creeks.

Some facilities racked up violations for several consecutive quarters. Some had been out of compliance for years.

Two of the most frequent violators are run by the city of Anderson, Big Generostee Creek and Rocky River Wastewater Treatment.

The EPA calls Big Generostee a “serious violation”.

Jeff Caldwell, the Anderson Utilities Director said, "It is something that the public needs to know and I don't, we don't, want hide those things we want to be up front about it."

Caldwell noted the 99% compliance rating at both facilities.

State and Federal records show a long history of warnings, fines and violations at both.

A 2004 report from D-HEC shows “a history of violations” in the 1990s at Big Generostee.

In 2003 the state took action after finding too much fecal coliform in the creek.

Since 2011, there have been 8 more state warnings and multiple fines including one showing fecal coliform released at 20 times the maximum amount.

“It could be operator error, it could be a power malfunction, it could be just human error in the sampling process," Caldwell said.

It’s hard to find a single cause because the violations vary. One fecal coliform warning at Rocky River was blamed on a power failure. One release was because Big Generostee didn’t use enough chlorine.

In January 2011, after state warnings about too much ammonia released into Big Generostee Caldwell told the state it was because of low water temperatures.

New testing in March and April again showed elevated levels.

Caldwell then told the state the facility would change “operating procedures”.

When the releases happened again in May, the city was fined.

“I can't think of the last time that it's floated back up to council where we've seen the violations," said Anderson Mayor Terence Roberts.

Roberts said he was surprised to hear the 7 On Your Side findings. Both Rocky River and Big Generostee are still listed as “in violation”.

I guess it comes back down to using our resources and our training to make sure people are aware of it," Roberts said.

All of the facilities listed as “in violation” are usually safe. A DHEC spokesman said the releases are violations of a permit but they do not always indicate a threat to the water or to public health.

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