Coastal Conservation League advocating for the passing of two state bills

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) – Two complimentary bills at the statehouse right now aim to protect our waterways and provide more transparency to people out on the water.
These two bills would impact boaters, swimmers and fishermen on our rivers. Some Lowcountry organizations believe this would have a huge impact on our area and are pushing for these bills to pass.
House Bill 4958 and Senate Bill 999 are about the pipes that discharge into the rivers. While these drainage pipes are permitted, local organizations find that when people run into them on the water, it raises concerns about whether they are safe or not.
These two bills would require any entity with a permit to empty contents into our rivers to post a legible sign to inform people of the outfall. This would be a basic sign including the owner of the outfall and a phone number to call. These outfalls are a part of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System, a federal program run by the state. The contents are permitted, treated and completely legal, but not something the general public is typically aware of.
Land, Water and Wildlife Program Director Riley Egger said these signs would provide transparency and inform people on the water of what the outfall is and a direct contact line for when something goes wrong. She said that this is a step that would help protect our waterways and it just needs a little bit of a push to make it happen. Egger said that many other states – like Tennessee and Georgia – already did this in the 90s and early 2000s. She said that this will not add any restrictions or limits to the discharges, it will simply allow the public to make informed decisions and feel safer on the water.
“When you don’t know what an NPDES discharge is, seeing just an outfall or something bubbling up or something discharging into the river that can be kind of scary. And so for folks knowing that this is this is actually permitted and this is covered by DHEC and there are safeguards in place. So I know that our friends at the Charleston Waterkeeper and Congaree Riverkeeper, they get calls constantly from people wondering what an outfall is. And so this will allow people in real time to have that information,” Egger said.
The bills were introduced earlier this year and were referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs.
They are currently sitting in committee. Egger said she believes this is very simple but can greatly benefit water users in our area.
“We are really advocating for these bills because we are for the transparency of our waterways. Discharging into our rivers is a privilege not a right. And so, the companies and manufacturers that are discharging it owe it to the public to provide a little bit more transparency so they can make informed decisions,” she said.
Egger believes that the people have a right to know what these pipes are, so they can and decide if they want to swim, fish or kayak in that area.
“It’s going to allow people to feel more ownership of the rivers and to be able to know when they’re fishing or their kayaking, ‘Hey, I know what that is. And I know the company that is that outfall belongs to.’ And so it’s really just going to empower transparency and empower folks to make decisions what’s best for them and their families,” she said.
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