The Big Stink in South Carolina

SCNow had an article discussing the well-known nuisance at Lee County Landfill owned by Republic Services headquartered in Arizona.  The South Carolina Supreme Court will hear arguments on a suit against the Lee County Landfill.  The jury found the landfill was operating as a nuisance and awarded punitive damages.   The residents are concerned about ridding "their property and their lives of the putrid smells emanating from the nearby landfill."  Plaintiffs purchased property in Bishopville within a two-mile radius of the dump before it began accepting waste in 1994.

"Last March a federal jury awarded three Lee County couples a total of $2.3 million in damages after their attorney argued that the strong odors from the dump located off of Interstate 20 were lessening their quality of life, disrupting tranquility and damaging their property values."

"During post-trial motions, the defense asked Federal Court Judge Joseph Anderson to throw out the award, arguing that nuisance law should not cover the $1.8 million of putative damages, only the actual damages that reflect decreased property value."

"However the plaintiffs’ attorney, Gary Poliakoff, said plenty of nuisance case law indicates the landfill is responsible for more than just damages to physical property, and that’s what he plans to tell the justices in oral arguments Tuesday."

We rely on numerous nuisance cases from the state of South Carolina from the past century which talk about the types of damages that can be awarded for nuisance and those types of damages include loss of quality of life, annoyance, inconvenience and interference with mental tranquility,” Poliakoff said. “All of those are from South Carolina Supreme Court cases for decades. The defense wants to undo those prior cases and say that damages should be limited to loss rental value, which we believe would be an absurd outcome.”

"Poliakoff and his clients maintain the Lee County Landfill has been a “horrendous, notorious landfill with terrible odors emanating for miles out for years.”"

Motorists driving the 70-mile stretch of I-20 between Florence and Columbia can certainly attest to that. Odors emanating from the area of the dump are noticeable almost every day.

Poliakoff said his clients hope the dump is closed outright by a court order, or alternatively, that the court will order the waste management company to comply with a list or regulations. Some of those controls on the landfill include an overall limit to the amount of waste accepted annually, limits on the types of waste accepted – such as human sewage sludge from more than 550 miles away that causes particularly strong odors – and additional gas wells and partial capping of some areas.

Meanwhile, the national waste industry lobbyists have filed amicus briefs attempting to influence the Supreme Court's decision on a South Carolina issue. Waste360 reported that several waste and recycling associations filed a brief with the South Carolina Supreme Court attempting to overturn the federal jury verdict.  "Combining on the amicus brief filed in support of the Lee County Landfill was the South Carolina chapter of the National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA), the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) and the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA)."   See article at Waste & Recycling News

 Fits News reported an interesting twist.  The article begins with an explanation how human sewage sludge waste leaves Staten Island, New York and weeks later ends up in the Lee County landfill home to a massive 150-foot tall landfill which receives all of this feces. “The waste has been rotting and stinking in the sun for two weeks by the time it gets to the landfill,” one of the facilities’ operators stated during a recent court case."  Fits News goes on to explain legislation currently pending before the South Carolina Senate which would limit their ability to refuse such shipments. In fact the legislation – S. 203 – would enjoin municipalities from passing any ordinance which blocks the feces.

Former S.C. Lt. Governor Bob Peeler supports the legislation on behalf og the waste industry. One of the primary sponsors is Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler (R-Cherokee) – who is Bob Peeler’s brother.   In fact Peeler's Medical Affairs Committee will determine whether the legislation makes its way to the floor of the S.C. Senate for a vote.

"That’s our beef with this legislation. Stripping local governments of their right to object to these facilities – or at the very least limit the amount of toxic human waste they accept – strikes us as a crass usurpation of individual liberty and of home rule. Also, the fact the waste industry is using Bob Peeler’s family connection to shove this legislation through the Senate is downright shameful – and typical of the corruption we’ve come to expect from state government in South Carolina."

 

 

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