Group takes legal action to stop water withdrawal
Friends of the Edisto has taken legal action in efforts to reverse a registration allowing a potato farm to withdraw massive amounts of water from the South Edisto River.
The petition for a contested case hearing was filed on Friday by the nonprofit organization, which focuses on the preservation of the Edisto River.
An agricultural surface water withdrawal registration was issued to Walther Farms by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control in March to withdraw up to 805 million gallons of water from the river monthly.
Walther Farms supplies potato chip processors.
The Friends were unaware of this registration until September, and they filed an appeal of the approval that was denied because the appeal wasn't done in a timely manner.
The farm has requested a second registration, which is currently under review by SCDHEC.
The Friends, along with other conservationists, have said they don't feel the registration has been studied enough to truly gain an understanding of how this will impact the Edisto and the ecosystem.
The petition states the Friends wants the Administrative Law Court to conduct a “contested case evidentiary hearing” and reverse SCDHEC's approval of Walther's registration or condition in a way to “adequately protect the river.”
The basis of this petition is that the authorization of this withdrawal registration violates state and federal environmental laws such as the Federal Clean Water Act, according to the Friends. The Friends also cite the South Carolina Constitution on eminent domain which states “all navigable waters shall forever remain public highways free to citizens of the state.”
Calls to Friends of the Edisto President Tim Rogers were not returned before press time. Rogers did post on the Friends of the Edisto Facebook page that he was grateful for all of the community's support in the efforts to preserve the river.
“Encouraged and reinforced by the avalanche of support for our dear River, and the outrage expressed by so many people at the threat she must now endure, FRED (Friends of the Edisto) will prosecute this contest with all the vigor we can muster,” Rogers wrote. “We can win this fight, we can save our River, if enough of us take up the cause.”
The Aiken Standard also reached out to SCDHEC and Walther Farm's headquarters in Michigan on Saturday but was unsuccessful.
Amy Banton is the County reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the publication since May 2010. She is a native of Rustburg, Va. and a graduate of Randolph-Macon Woman's College.