Judge won't dismiss Savannah River suit

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COLUMBIA — A federal judge will not dismiss a lawsuit over a pollution permit for the $650 million deepening of the Savannah River shipping channel.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel wrote in an order released late last week that the time is right to hear the case against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over the project. The deepening of the 38-mile channel is expected to begin in the spring.

The lawsuit was filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Augusta, Ga.- based Savannah Riverkeeper, the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League and the South Carolina Wildlife Federation. The deepening is being sought so the Georgia ports can accommodate larger container ships that will routinely be calling when the Panama Canal is deepened in 2014.

The environmental groups say the long-awaited project will dredge up toxic cadmium in river silt that will be dumped on the South Carolina side of the river that divides the state from Georgia. They want Gergel to decide if the corps needs a pollution permit issued by a South Carolina agency, arguing that they don’t have to wait until environmental damage actually occurs before they try to prevent it.

The corps had asked Gergel to dismiss the suit, saying the plaintiffs have not been harmed and that the case is premature. But on Friday, Gergel wrote that this is a good time to hear the case, given that construction on the project is set to begin in less than a year.

“This long and arduous planning and approval process is rapidly coming to completion,” Gergel wrote. “Plaintiffs need not wait for dissolvable oxygen levels to drop in the Savannah River or cadmium contaminated clay to be discharged into the environment before they have standing to sue.”

Gergel has also asked the parties to give him an update on other lawsuits over the deepening project. Environmentalists have also sued in state court, alleging that a permit approved by the Department of Health and Environmental Control last year is illegal because authority over river dredging decisions rests with the state Savannah River Maritime Commission.

Chief Justice Jean Toal said during a hearing that DHEC broke state law when it shut out the river commission dredging negotiations and the agency “rubber stamped” an agreement with Georgia officials. DHEC staff had initially turned down the permit, but the agency reversed itself after Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal flew to Columbia to meet with Gov. Nikki Haley, who appoints members of the DHEC board.

The Savannah River Maritime Commission is already appealing the certification through the State Administrative Law Court.

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David Parker
7921
Points
David Parker 07/09/12 - 03:28 pm
2
0
So very glad that someone got

So very glad that someone got a wedge in to halt the dredging project for now. It's going to total out a billion dollars after they factor in the additional cost to keep the silted cadmium in check. I'm guessing again but the total will be up there.

Hey, as long as the State of Georgia has no unemployed, hungry, homeless, neglected, and uneducated citizens, AND all the public-owned property is in exceptional condition and maintained, AND crime is a non-issue, yea sure. Check off my short list of items and move ahead with that river-diggin thing. I support it in full, but I'll wait to buy the t-shirt.

Little Lamb
43812
Points
Little Lamb 07/09/12 - 04:12 pm
0
1
Cadmium

If the heart of the lawsuit is "toxic cadmium," then I'm convinced that plaintiffs will not prevail. Cadmium is a natural metal that exists in rocks and soils all over the world. If purified and chemically converted to soluble salt form, it exhibits some human toxicity if administered in high doses. But cadmium is pretty low on the scale of toxicity. There are many, many, many more effective poisons than cadmium.

Remember, cadmium is one of the essential components in rechargeable batteries (that is why they call them "nickel/cadmium" or NICAD batteries).

There is a concentration level in soil (silt) below which cadmium would be considered a non-issue. I will try to find that in the next few days.

David Parker
7921
Points
David Parker 07/09/12 - 04:16 pm
1
0
it's also good for making

it's also good for making pigments.

see here: Http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadmium_pigments

this is a quote from the wiki:
"They are highly toxic and can produce cadmium poisoning."

I don't know if they are talking about "refined/processed" cadmium or cadmium itself. Also think in terms of whether it's toxic to a tree frog, or a water bug, or an endangered specie of fish. Toxicity to humans is not as relevant b/c by the time the unsilted cadmium reaches a beach or somewhere that has swimmers, it's probably going to be dispersed in the water enough to avoid danger.

Riverman1
79153
Points
Riverman1 07/09/12 - 04:55 pm
4
0
Let Charleston be the Superport

We don't need two superports a hundred miles apart. Save $650 million and leave Savannah harbor alone.

Dixieman
12833
Points
Dixieman 07/09/12 - 08:10 pm
0
3
Here we go again with more

Here we go again with more litigation from the job-killing Savannah Riverkeeper organization!

David Parker
7921
Points
David Parker 07/10/12 - 08:16 am
2
0
I would propose that Savannah

I would propose that Savannah could parlay saving 650 million into remaining competitive with their existing contracts so that they are only slightly affected by the lack of supertanker business. Riverman's point stands.

Trying to keep up with Charleston at this point in the game is like starting behind the 8-ball. Break this down into nuts and bolts. Where is the study that shows how the Georgia economy would suffer profoundly from NOT deepening the harbor? I'm not talking about the presumption that everybody would just abandon their operations in Savannah b/c in 2014 bigger ships are cruising the waters. That's just not the way things would happen. Some will stay in Savannah for logistics. Some will stay for more competitive rates to unload and load. Some will stay b/c of loyalty, granted the bottom-line trumps loyalty these days but there are some holdouts.

Riverman1
79153
Points
Riverman1 07/10/12 - 11:56 am
2
0
David, I've Asked Before...

David, I've asked before for them to show me a study that says we will lose if Charleston is the only superport. I contend it's just as easy to ship things to Atlanta, etc. by rail and interstate highway from Charleston as it is from Savannah. They come out with big studies showing how much we lose if Savannah harbor is not deepened at a cost of $650 million, but never study how Charleston harbor also benefits Georgia negating their entire point.

David Parker
7921
Points
David Parker 07/10/12 - 04:08 pm
1
0
I need full disclosure before

I need full disclosure before I get on board with digging up metric tons of mud.

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