Author Topic: Dredging study by scientists at Coastal Carolina  (Read 544 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Tom Rubillo

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 121
Dredging study by scientists at Coastal Carolina
« on: January 31, 2020, 12:44:50 PM »
I've read the "Feasibility Study Addressing the Harbor Silting Issue in Georgetown, SC."  It is as understandable as an insurance policy, so it took a little time to plow through what it says.  Basically, though, it reports that two important access points into Georgetown's harbor -- the one between the Port's Authority's docks and Goat Island (the "Western Channel") and the one between the tip of Goat Island old Hazard boat yard (the "Eastern Channel")-- are silting up.  At this point the "Western Channel" is impassible.  The channel is only one or two feet deep there, cutting off direct access to the steel mill and preventing passage to the mill by barges.  Steel mill owners want that one opened.  The "Eastern" Goat Island/Hazard entrance is the one used by shrimp boats, other commercial fishermen and recreational boaters.  It is also the access to the river used by yacht owners who moor along the Harborwalk, paying rent to property owners on Front Street for the privilege.  The average depth of the access channel at that point is now 5 or 6 feet, mostly because shrimp boat propellers push out some of the silt and muck that would otherwise build up there.

Using various methods to study the rise and fall of tides, the relative speed of water currents into and out of the Sampit River from Winyah Bay during those sorts of changes, the impact of big storm events, as well as the sources and amounts of silt, sand, mud, flotsam and the like, theories, estimates and projections were made.  At this point, it is believed that it would cost between $1.9 million to $5.3 million to dredge the Eastern Channel into Front Street to a depth of 12 feet.  It would cost at least $8.3 million to dredge the Western Channel (the one the steel mill wants to use) to a depth of 13 feet.   It would cost an estimated $11.5 million to get to a depth of 18 feet.    Doing the math, that's $10.1 million to clear both channels to a minimally acceptable depth and nearly $16 million to go deeper at both places.  The highest estimate given by the study puts estimated costs over $22 and a half million to dredge to 12 feet in the Eastern Channel and 27 feet in the Western Channel.

With the approval of voters years ago, Georgetown County imposed a 1% special purpose sales tax on all purchases in its jurisdiction.  $6 million of that was earmarked for dredging.  Some of those tax dollars were used to dredge the entrance into Murrells Inlet to benefit commercial and individual users of that important access to the Atlantic Ocean.  Meanwhile, not a dime was spent on the access points into Georgetown's inner harbor.

The money spent on Murrells Inlet  was well and properly spent.  I'm not arguing about that.  But fair and is fair.  The needs of Georgetown's harbor -- industrial needs, commercial needs, recreational needs -- are at least as important as those of Murrells Inlet.   

The county's 1% special purpose tax has expired.  The county council wants to renew it.  To do that it will need to get the approval of a majority of voters in Georgetown, both Georgetown County and, importantly, the City of Georgetown and its immediate surroundings (what I like to call the "Greater Georgetown Metropolitan Area" stretching from Belle Island to Wedgefield south to north and through Greentown to the west.)  A a political matter, those communities that have already benefited from the tax (especially Murrells Inlet) have no need to support its continuation.  After all, they've gotten what they wanted.

My point here is that if the county wants to renew the 1% special purpose tax, to have a realistic shot at achieving that result it will need the strong support of the City of Georgetown, the steel mill, the communities of Belle Isle, Kensington, Wedgefield and Greentown.  Without that, the tax is doomed.

So what's all that tell them.  Simply, they've got to pledge a very significant amount of money to keeping both the Inner and Outer access points into the Port of Georgetown open for traffic to attract votes in the Greater Metropolitan Georgetown area.  I suggest, therefore, that those who read this posting and think the issue important to the future economic well being of all of Georgetown contact their representative on county council and let that person know that you've got your eye on both the tax referendum and their next election cycle.  "When I feel the heat I see the light" is what one politician once said about public input.  Light things up for them.

PBSIAT

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 352
Re: Dredging study by scientists at Coastal Carolina
« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2020, 07:30:52 PM »
Well we have to dredge the east side so the yachts and shrimp boats can get in and out. But anything that keeps that nasty steel mill running is out of the question. Can we get James E. Sanderson, Jr to shut the mill down again?

Tom Rubillo

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 121
Re: Dredging study by scientists at Coastal Carolina
« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2020, 01:59:14 PM »
You may be right about the western channel.  Truth is that if the steel mill wants to barge its products or anything else out of the port, it can do so by trucking it the short distance to the Port Authority dock and shipping by barge from there.  So far as I can tell from the study, the PA dock is still deep enough to accommodate barges.  If it is, short truck hauls by employees certainly would be a lot cheaper than long hauls to buyers by independent truckers.  Either that, or by the mill laying a short distance of railroad track to the PA dock.  That, of course, is for the steel mill to work out, not an issue for voters.  My comments are intended for consideration of the public issue of a proposed referendum to renew a 1% special purpose tax, not to meddle into decisions of private businesses.   

By the way, there's another subject raised in the study that I omitted from my first posting.  It is the environmental problems associated with dredging.  The sand/silt/mud bars that have built up at the mouth of both the eastern and western entrances to the "inner harbor" that surrounds Goat Island likely contains a good bit of hazardous and/or toxic waste.  Melting scrap metal from old cars (which the steel mill has done for years) results in a lot of heavy metals being refined out of the steel and cast aside in the resulting slag, cinders and sandy residue. Heavy metals like lead, cadmium, chrome and the like are classified as either hazardous or toxic wastes.  Those heavy metals have leached into the Sampit over the years, a lot of it carried by storm water runoff, both directly off of the mill's property and through the city's drainage system.  And, of course, the paper mill produced a lot of dioxin (toxic at amounts measured in parts per quadrillion) that ended up in the river bottom for several years until the mill switched from bleaching paper with chlorine to using oxygen to do the same.  All of that stuff -- heavy metals and dioxin -- could be stirred up by dredging.  The choice of a spoil site, therefore, poses serious and complicated problems, like picking out a new hazardous and toxic waste site.  The choice of a spoil site, therefore, would be a very, very important matter of public concern.

What this all boils down to is that these issues really have very little to do with which people and/or industries we may, as individuals, like or dislike for whatever reason.  They are matters involving the difficult choices that have to be made that will all have a serious impact on the health, safety and welfare of the entire community.  I try to keep that in mind whenever I post stuff under my given name rather than a nom de plume..

 

Marty Tennant

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5763
    • Marty Tennant the PC Doctor
Re: Dredging study by scientists at Coastal Carolina
« Reply #3 on: February 01, 2020, 04:03:18 PM »
Hey Tom, what is underneath the concrete dome out by the airport?
Notice:  All posts made by me are my OPINION.  I am not responsible for any comments by others!  The Citizens' Report is provided as a public service to the citizens of Georgetown County for them to report and comment on the news.

JW

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 582
Re: Dredging study by scientists at Coastal Carolina
« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2020, 03:21:07 PM »
Marty- The asphalt dome on Aviation Blvd (by the airport) is hazardous waste from the Steel Mill. The mill has to pay the state for that hazardous waste and monitor it every year. The poor people who live near that site were forced off their wells because of the contamination from that site.

Tom Rubillo

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 121
Re: Dredging study by scientists at Coastal Carolina
« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2020, 08:40:19 PM »
Marty, JW is absolutely correct.  The "dome" you are referring to is a toxic waste site.  Georgetown Steel used the old unlined landfill (dump) on Aviation Avenue to get rid of bag house dust (the most toxic stuff produced at the mill) and avoid the cost of its proper disposal.  Both the city and the county knew all about it while it was going on.  When DHEC caught on, it was because people living in the area who had been drawing their drinking water from shallow ground water wells started to get sick.  Caught with its pants down, Georgetown Steel made a deal with the city to pipe municipal drinking water to homeowners (who were outside of the city limits) and to pay their water bills.  Mill representatives then went to the homeowners and acted like they were doing those individuals a big favor.  Not knowing that their wells had been seriously and dangerously contaminated by this grotesque violation of environmental law -- by this good ole boy arrangement between the then city and county powers-that-were and mill managers that totally disregarded public health and safety -- area residents thanked the geeks from the mill for what they thought was a favor.  Problem was, however, that all of the toxic heavy metals in the bag hill dust were leaching into the ground water and, likely, blowing in the wind and mixing into the soil all around the neighborhood.  The landfill was unlined, so that rain water simply seeped into and through the ever accumulating bag house dust.  No cap or dirt was being spread over the top of the dump to contain the dust, so the wind just blew it all around.  People got sick.

When DHEC caught on, it (l) made Georgetown Steel stop dumping its dust there (2) made the mill and local government cap the whole place with asphalt (that's the "dome" you referred to) and (3) made Georgetown Steel post a quarter million dollar bond to cover the cost of maintenance of the "dome." 

Everything rocked along this way -- with Georgetown Steel paying water bills for residents without those people knowing why -- until Georgetown Steel when bankrupt.  At that point it listed the monthly water bills among the debts it wanted to discharge in bankruptcy.  That's when the property owners got a notice from the court that Georgetown Steel wasn't going to pay for the water usage of property owners and bills from the city for same. 

I went to DHEC's offices in Columbia and went through the files.  DHEC wasn't exactly cooperative, but ultimately turned over everything.  All the foregoing facts were laid out pretty plainly in those files.  The most important piece of information that surfaced was a copy of the performance bond that Georgetown Steel had been required to post.  It was about to expire.  I contacted Jack Scoville -- then the county attorney -- about the situation.  He enforced the bond.  The county used the quarter million to repair the cracks in the "dome" existing at the time.   Samples from test wells that had been drilled around the site revealed contamination.  Jack said it wasn't spreading.  I read the results differently. Whether the county spent all or just part of the quarter million dollars remedying problems is anybody's guess.  It has been a decade or so since all of this happened, so I doubt that a FOIA request to the county would turn up much. 

As far as the prospects of litigation for property owners, what with the passage of time between the initial misuse of the land and misleading of property owners  (it had been years and years since both the dumping and the original bamboozling of property owners) there were serious statute of limitations problems.  Legal research turned up a "continuing nuisance" exception tolling the statute, but the argument was by no way a sure winner.  Adding more problems was   the "stay" issued by the bankruptcy court forbidding actions against the primary malefactor (Georgetown Steel) without the bankruptcy court's special permission.  That would be a big, high hurdle to be overcome before any other litigation could start.  Failing to do that first would be contempt of the bankruptcy court and land everybody in federal prison.  Very dangerous.  Given all this, there wasn't much that anyone could afford to do -- not property owners and not a small town country lawyer like me.  I tried to get Jimmy Chandler and the Environmental Law Project interested, but was unsuccessful.  I couldn't afford to finance the protracted and expensive litigation that would have been required, all without being able to figure out (a) what the monetary damages amounted to (needed to hire a bunch of medical and environmental experts to establish that) and what a South Carolina jury would think of these unique facts. 
I didn't like any of that, but reality is reality. 

This is not an isolated incident.  Georgetown has a bunch of environmental nightmare stories. This is one of them.  Soil dredged from the Sampit River and Winyah Bay that contained dioxin is another.  None of these sorts of problems simply go away.  Like the heavy metals involved here, and the dioxin discharged by the paper mill years ago before it changed from bleaching paper with chlorine to using oxygen to do the same, the problems created by corporate (and governmental) behavior years ago persist to this day.  As to this particular on-going problem with the "dome," it is my understanding that the county is supposed to monitor the ground water by taking samples periodically.  It is also supposed to keep an eye on the condition of the "dome" to make sure that it remains sealed so that rainwater doesn't again seep through and into the bag house dust below.  Whether that is happening or not....???

There is, however, one other matter.  Area topsoil was never tested to find out if it contained dangerous levels of heavy metals like lead, chrome, cadmium and the like.  Instead, the county went ahead and built baseball fields and other recreational facilities there for the kids to play in.  See no evil..... 

There's a moral to this story.  Beware of geeks bearing gifts..

PBSIAT

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 352
Re: Dredging study by scientists at Coastal Carolina
« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2020, 03:16:26 PM »
And all this contamination is less than a half mile from the new Charlton development? If anybody ever does build out there I bet someone will let them know about all that contamination and someone will be in a hell of a mess for not disclosing that. Attention Ron Charlton......