By Stan Welch
West Pelzer Town Council chose the lesser, and much cheaper, of two evils Monday night, voting unanimously to authorize a consulting firm to seek a wastewater waiver from DHEC on behalf of the town.
The Council’s hand is essentially being forced by DHEC’s decision to designate the town as an urbanized area, based on the results of the 2010 U.S. Census. That designation means that the town is subject to MS4 permit requirements.
To comply with those permit conditions, the town would have to jump through some very complicated and expensive bureaucratic hoops, including the creation of nine different programs, related to storm water runoff, as well as submitting a variety of annual reports to DHEC.
Anderson County Storm Water Manager Jon Batson and Deputy County Administrator Holt Hopkins were on hand Monday night, to provide information and moral support, as well as to urge the Council to pursue the waiver as aggressively as possible.
Batson explained that the town, according to DHEC, meets enough of the WS4 criteria, including being an urbanized area, and having an impaired body of water (the Saluda River) that, without a waiver, they will have to comply with state regulations. The steps needed to attain compliance would, according to the county, cost approximately thirty thousand dollars a year.
The county would, in the event the waiver is refused, design a specific program for the town. In answer to a question from Councilman Blake Sanders, Hopkins explained that the costs could not be shared with Williamston and Pendleton, other towns recently designated as WS4, because each program has to be specific to the town. “We have to reinvent the wheel every time,” said Hopkins, “so there is no way to blend the costs.”
Mayor Paxton expressed amazement that the town of Pelzer has received no such WS4 designation. “Every bit of the runoff that originates in West Pelzer flows through Pelzer and into the river. It seems incredible that we have to deal with this, while they don’t”. The general consensus was that the unusually small corporate limits of Pelzer and the unusually large population just outside those corporate limits may be the answer.
The Bowman Consulting firm has presented a proposal to seek a waiver for the town, for the cost of $2000. The issue is that the deadline for the application is December 15, although town clerk Paula Payton reported that an extension has been offered until Jan. 2, 2015. Batson nonetheless recommended that the town seek an extension of the December deadline from DHEC in writing.
Hopkins and Batson also suggested some points the town should raise in its application for a waiver, such as the West Pelzer/Pelzer discrepancy, and the fact that much of the runoff from the town comes from state highway number 8, which is the main thoroughfare through town.