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Update on Permitting Requirements and Timeline: Water Quality Concerns at AERP’s Industrial Site in Lumberton

Stormwater Permitting:

In December of 2019, Active Energy Renewable Power (AERP) began operating a sawmill to generate immediate cash flows for the company by producing and selling railroad ties, while compiling wood chips/bark and other wood products for their future pellet mill operation. 

As part of these operations, AERP is storing woody materials in uncovered piles outside, which requires a Clean Water Act permit to cover the resulting stormwater discharges (i.e., runoff). 

AERP failed to apply for the necessary Stormwater Permit Coverage required for the sawmill operation, so the Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of Winyah Rivers Alliance and its Lumber Riverkeeper, sent a Notice Letter to the company on August 11, 2020.

Within a week of receiving the Notice Letter, AERP hired CP Engineering and Environmental to review the site’s stormwater issues, and AERP applied for a stormwater discharge permit required by NC statutes and federal law.  

The NC Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources (DEMLR) officially received AERP’s Application for Stormwater Permit Coverage on August 25, 2020. Specifically, AERP’s application sought a “Certificate of Coverage” under the existing general permit for the timber/wood products industries. Although Certificates of Coverage require a site visit and inspection to be conducted by DEMLR personnel prior to issuance, these permits do not require a public notice/comment period. 

On September 11, 2020, a DEMLR inspector executed the site visit at the AERP sawmill operation. After DEMLR’s review of the application and inspection report, a Stormwater Permit (Certificate of Coverage) was issued to AERP on September 21, 2020. 

Wastewater Permitting:

As noted in the September 11 inspection report, “Wood pellet manufacturing operations are planned for within the next several months.” Once the pellet mill starts operating, AERP plans to use the on-site Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) that would cover the treatment and discharge of wastewater generated on the site and/or through the company’s pellet manufacturing operations. As of October 5, 2020, AERP has not applied for a permit for operation of the existing WWTP for its pellet mill operations.

Although a wastewater permit was issued to Alamac American Knits, LLC (Alamac), the previous owner of the facility, for textile-related use of the WWTP, that permit cannot be used by AERP for their proposed pellet mill operations.

Before any pellet manufacturing begins, AERP must submit a new permit application for the on-site WWTP, and undergo a full review by NC DEQ’s Division of Water Resources (DWR).

Like the air permit application, the wastewater permit will require a public comment/notice period of at least 45 days before a wastewater permit can be issued.

Stay tuned for updates about the public comment/notice period for AERP’s wastewater permit.

Questions? Contact your Lumber Riverkeeper, Jeff Currie, at LumberRK@winyahrivers.org.

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Winyah Rivers Alliance

P.O. Box 554 | 301 Allied Drive
Conway, SC 29528
843 .349 .4007
winyahrivers@winyahrivers.org

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