America’s Most Endangered Rivers®: 2009 Edition

#6 Saluda River, South Carolina

Threat: Sewage Pollution
Partners: Upstate Forever

The drinking water source for more than 500,000 people and a hot spot for boaters and anglers, the Saluda River is choking from phosphorous pollution found in human waste. Wastewater treatment plants are dumping excessive amounts of phosphorous into the river, threatening property values, fish and wildlife and popular recreational activities. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control must impose meaningful phosphorous limits on all wastewater treatment plant permits to protect the health of the Saluda River and communities that depend on it. Learn More

UPDATE (October 2009): The Saluda River is still choking from phosphorous pollution from wastewater treatment plants but it has captured the attention of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).  Collaboration with legislators, state agencies, wastewater treatment plant owners and operators, and the community at large seems likely to result in meaningful phosphorus limits on the wastewater plants in the Saluda watershed and hopefully all future wastewater permits issued by DHEC. 

Upstate Forever has given eight presentations to concerned citizens with a total attendance of over 600.  The meeting’s organizers, including South Carolina State Representative Mike Pitts, have formed a community-based steering committee that will work across the watershed to secure support for strengthening permit limits for phosphorus and apply pressure to DHEC for such limits. 

Moreover, Upstate Forever has met with the owners or operators of wastewater treatment plants whose permits are up for renewal:  the town of Williamston has committed to remove their wastewater discharge from the Saluda and irrigate farmland with the treated effluent, completely removing their discharge of phosphorus to the river.  DHEC has not yet issued any permits for the wastewater treatment plants on the Saluda River but has indicated that its permit evaluation will consider phosphorus loads.