Environmental issues discussed at joint luncheon

By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, slyles@newsandpress.net

Environmental challenges took center stage as the Greater Darlington Chamber of Commerce welcomed members of the Darlington Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs to a joint luncheon Oct. 18.

Erin Pate of the Coastal Conservation League

Guest speaker Erin Pate of the Coastal Conservation League (CCL) spoke to members about issues facing the Pee Dee region.

A nonprofit based in Charleston, CCL teams with citizens and government to preserve the water, land and air of South Carolina’s coastal plain. CCL operations are funded by grants and donations from its 5,000 members statewide.

“Conservation is really at the heart of what we do,” said Pate, who grew up fishing and wandering the woods on a farm near Cheraw.

“It’s important to preserve our natural resources so our kids and grandkids get to enjoy what we did growing up.”

Pate discussed a typical project where citizens in the town of Earle (just west of Andrews) sought the CCL’s help. A developer bought large tracts of land in their rural community, ostensibly to open a sod farm, then changed his plans and announced that he would instead begin mining limestone.

Pate said the developer’s mining operation would have extracted massive quantities of groundwater.

“The amount of groundwater they asked DHEC to approve for them to extract would be between 2.5 and 7.5 million gallons a day,” said Pate, noting that this mining method often causes sinkholes, foundation damage and severe wetlands depletion.
The Coastal Conservation League advocated for these concerned citizens, worked with the local county council to organize opposition, and continues to negotiate with DHEC and the mining company to find a workable solution for all concerned.

Recently, CCL won an fight for tighter air pollution restrictions and closer monitoring of water discharge at the Johnson Controls battery recycling facility near Florence. CCL also teamed with farmers to strengthen state legislation regarding hog farms, thereby protecting land and waterways from unsanitary waste lagoon runoff.

Pate stressed that when a commercial enterprise threatens environmental damage, citizens should take a close look at the cost-benefit ratio and decide if the project is worth it to their community.

As an example, she explained that construction of I-73 would lay a 300-foot-wide swath of pavement over more than 300 acres of pristine land, impacting many family farms and wild wetlands.

Those wetlands, she noted, are needed more than ever to soak up floodwaters and heavy rains that accompany ever-intensifying hurricanes, and those low-lying areas of I-73 would likely flood during severe weather.

These potential damages must be weighed against the possibility of commercial growth from increased tourist traffic headed toward Myrtle Beach. Pate argued that much of I-73’s commercial growth would cluster around a few exits and come in the form of fast food franchises and gas stations. She suggested expanding existing highways and constructing a bypass around Aynor would alleviate traffic tangles and present a better use of transportation dollars.

The Coastal Conservation League has offices in Charleston, Columbia, Beaufort and Georgetown.

For more information, visit them online at coastalconservationleague.org, or call Erin Pate in the Georgetown office at (843) 545-0403.

Author: Rachel Howell

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