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York County: Work has to stop after major Lake Wylie sediment spill

Sediment spill leads to stop work order in Lake Wylie

York County has told the developer of Cypress Pointe, a D.R. Horton site in Lake Wylie, to stop working until environmental problems are fixed. On July 29, 2018, heavy rains spilled currents of sediment across yards and into Lake Wylie.
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York County has told the developer of Cypress Pointe, a D.R. Horton site in Lake Wylie, to stop working until environmental problems are fixed. On July 29, 2018, heavy rains spilled currents of sediment across yards and into Lake Wylie.

York County has told the developer of a Lake Wylie residential project to stop working until environmental problems are fixed.

On July 29, heavy rains spilled currents of sediment from the D.R. Horton site in Lake Wylie. Cypress Pointe, approved in 2015 by York County for 358 homes on 155 acres, is opposite Bonum Road from the Lake Crest subdivision. Both subdivisions are under construction, but Cypress Pointe still has roads to be connected.

Residents along Bonum have for years said at least one of those roads would be a problem, with a connection they didn’t want concerning them with new traffic, but also the potential environmental impact so close to Lake Wylie.

“These neighbors met with county staff repeatedly asking for relief because the contractor’s plans approved by the county were unsound,” said neighbor Ellen Goff, also a Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation board and Lake Wylie Marine Commission member.

Trish Startup, spokesperson for York County, said Tuesday afternoon work has to stop on the construction project until environmental issues are addressed.

“The county has issued a stop work order,” Startup said.

Stop work orders require developments to halt construction until whatever caused the stop work order, in this case environmental compliance failures, are addressed. Sediment retention failures come with at least a 15-day grace period for developers to fix what happened, before any potential fines could be levied.

Fines can vary, but typically aren’t large. They can accumulate if violations linger for long periods.

D.R. Horton won’t have the stop work order lifted, Startup said, “until the offsite sedimentation issues have been resolved and the site is back in compliance.”

Bonum Road resident Connie Miller, a member of the Riverkeeper Foundation and a Lake Wyle Covekeeper, wrote to County Manager Bill Shanahan in July 2017 about the site, stating she was “contacted continuously” by concerned residents for six months about Cypress Pointe and Lake Crest. Lake Crest has had at least two stop work orders. Miller wrote to Shanahan that she looked forward to the day when stormwater and erosion complaints are rare, but that “unfortunately, that day has yet to arrive.”

“The fine amounts are mere pittance to these contractors and developers,” wrote Miller, who last summer shared her letter to Shanahan with the Fort Mill Times. “This is the way development is done in York County and they anticipate that the odds are in their favor that non-compliance will be less expensive than compliance.”

Goff said she and other residents are frustrated.

“My feelings about this entire saga leave me extremely disappointed in our neighbors’ dealings with county staff and members of the county council who would not act to protect this neighborhood from adverse impacts of development and who would not act to protect Lake Wylie from stormwater pollution and sedimentation.”

Goff said Allison Love, a Bonum Road neighbor and current county council representative, has worked tirelessly for more than a year on the issue. But the county as a whole, Goff said, has accomplished little.

“Stormwater and sedimentation pollution are the most critical threats to the health of Lake Wylie,” Goff said. “The pollution is occurring faster than officials can respond to stop it.”

Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins said he gets more environmental complaints from the Bonum Road area than from other spots throughout the Charlotte region. He called the area “one of the worst and most pervasive polluters we’ve ever had” after the July 29 spill.

In an online discussion that spill started on the Riverkeeper Foundation’s Facebook page, Perkins explained why sedimentation is such an important issue beyond lakes and streams filling in and restricting access.

The day after the spill, workers spent time washing roadways in Cypress Pointe. Roads were still covered in mud, sometimes several inches thick. Large chunks of road remain unbuilt, transitioning from asphalt to mud in huge sections. A man who identified himself on site Monday as being in charge of the work declined to comment on what was being done or how long it might take.

According to county code, developers or builders are notified about potential violations and what needs to be done to fix them before a stop work order is issued. Once one is issued, “no further permits, grading or building” can be issued in the property owner’s name “until all violations have been resolved and the stop work order is lifted.”

For now, neighbors will wait to see what will be done.

“York County Council and staff must demonstrate that they are willing to take action now to protect the lake,” Goff said. “Any other response is unacceptable.”

John Marks: jmarks@fortmilltimes.com; @JohnFMTimes
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