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DHEC: City shouldn't have dumped at site

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By Johnathan Ryan

The city didn't get a permit to dump leaves at the old Lancaster Plant site, as it apparently did for about a year.

Frances Pittman, who lives on the south end of the once mighty Springs Industries plant, found the pile of leaves the city left on the site annoying. It smelled and was a haven for snakes and rats, she said.

Earlier this month, the pile stood about 25 feet tall and stretched about 50 yards. A stench also pervaded the pile's surroundings.

But that was a good day, said Pittman's caretaker, Tim Steele.

"When it rains, there's the most unbearable smell out here. You can't stand out here on this (back) porch for long," Steele said earlier this month.

Water also backs up to Pittman's backyard, about 50 yards from the pile.

"The worst thing they (the city) did was put the leaves over the large drain that takes water from the area," Steele said.

S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control spokeswoman Clair Boatwright said the city should have obtained a state permit to dump leaves at the plant.

"The appropriate place for that at the moment is a landfill," she said.

DHEC tries to work with violators to correct a situation before levying a fine, Boatwright said.

"Each case is different and I'm not going to compare and contrast," Boatwright said.

As The Lancaster News was working on this story last week, something happened to cause a change of course from the city.

City crews started moving the leaves to a landfill in Kershaw.

The only cost is to transport the leaves there, said City Public Works Director Jerry Crockett.

Crockett admits the city did not have the required permit to dump leaves at the mill site. He said that was because the site was for the storage of leaves, not for compost manufacturing, for which DHEC explicitly requires a permit.

The city gives the leaves away for compost production, but it does not make compost itself, he said.

"But DHEC now treats them (compost and leaf sites) the same," Crockett said.

He would not say if DHEC had given the city an ultimatum to clear the leaves.

"DHEC will work with you, and they are working with us," he said.

Crockett said the city will seek a permit to either continue dumping leaves at the mill site or at two sites the public works department owns on Lynwood Drive.

He said the old mill site is a central location for city crews to converge and dump leaves.

When the city bought the old mill site from Springs Global for $1, Pittman thought the city had other plans.

"I thought they were supposed to be turning that into a soccer field, ballfield or something," she said.

She didn't think it would become a dump.

Contact reporter Johnathan Ryan at jryan@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 416-8416