From WMBF News Partner the Carolina Forest Chronicle
By Michael Smith
Cottonpatch has once again captured the attention of local and state health regulatory agencies after failing multiple inspections, according to documents obtained by the Carolina Forest Chronicle.
S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) records show that state health officials also think the site developers have identified as a subdivision actually does require a mining permit because Cottonpatch had exceeded permitted digging depths and was selling excavated material to a multiple commercial buyers.
Read the entire e-mail chain of documents DHEC released by clicking here.
Documents the Chronicle obtained through the S.C. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) show that Cottonpatch failed in five areas of an Horry County stormwater inspection conducted Feb. 16.
In a follow-up letter sent Feb. 17, Horry County deputy stormwater manager Thomas Roth said the county is still having issues with trucks tracking mud on Gardner Lacy Road.
There was also damage to the grass and shoulder from trucks turning onto Gardner Lacy Road, the letter states.
Check dams were never installed in a roadside ditch and a stockpile near the pond was never stabilized.
Lastly, there was sediment discharged from the site through an outfall, the letter said. An Horry County stormwater inspection sheet said sediment was detected downstream from Cottonpatch.
"The plans did not show a dewatering plan and for a while the sediment basin that was installed was working," Roth wrote. "We have recently noticed turbid water leaving the site when the pond is being dewatered."
Robert Turner, an engineer associated with the project, answered Roth's letter on Feb. 21. In the letter, Turner said all efforts were being taken to address the county's concerns.
"The contractor is committed to achieving the proper limit of sediment control during construction of this project, and has expended numerous resources in a continuing effort to achieve that limit," Turner wrote.
"It is now apparent that, despite the best efforts of the contractor, the level of sediment discharge satisfactory to Horry County has not been achieved."
Similar concerns over prior stormwater inspections were outlined in an e-mail exchange from early January.
On Jan. 5, Roth sent a message about Cottonpatch to Bill Kregloe, a stormwater project manager with DHEC, discussing an inspection conducted in December.
"They were still excavating and nothing has been done to alleviate the corrective actions from the previous inspections," Roth's e-mail states. "Trucks were still seen hauling material out but we do not know where they were hailing [sic] to."
"Thank you for the update," Kregloe wrote in a follow-up message from Jan. 6. "That is what we suspected. I will let you know what happens after our conference call next week."
Cottonpatch had originally applied for a mining permit, but withdrew it in 2010 following public outcry from the community.
Developers later resubmitted the project as a subdivision request, which allows limited digging provided either a subdivision is built or the material excavated is used solely for S.C. Department of Transportation projects.
DHEC documents released to the Chronicle include notes from phone conversations with several S.C. DOT officials, who said little if any excavated material was being used for road projects, such as the backgate interchange at U.S. 17 Bypass.
One S.C. DOT official told DHEC "it was common knowledge that Cottonpatch was supplying dirt to all commercial jobs – not solely to S.C. DOT," records show.
At one point, DHEC told Cottonpatch developer Roger Grigg that the agency might require Cottonpatch to obtain a mining permit if the agency determined that excavated material was going to buyers other than S.C. DOT.
"I explained that if this was correct, that a mining permit is required and that I might need to issue a cease and desist order until a permit (mining permit) was obtained," a DHEC document dated Aug. 15, 2011 stated.
"Mr. Grigg suggested that I think long and hard before I issue and cease and desist order," the document continues.
Grigg couldn't be reached for comment as of this posting.
Last week, the county said DHEC told Cottonpatch to fill parts of the retention pond because the allowable digging depth had been exceeded.
Steve Gosnell, the county's director of infrastructure of regulation, identified the material as gumbo clay.
"They had excavated the pond to a depth greater than the approved plans and are filling it in to get it back to its approved depth," Gosnell said.