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Waste Water Construction Permitting

History of the SC Wastewater Construction Permit Program


In the 1950s, the South Carolina State Board of Health was responsible for the wastewater construction permit program. The Pollution Control Authority and the Division of Sanitary Engineering were the program areas of the State Board of Health responsible for wastewater construction permit issuance.

During the 1950s and early 1960s, most of the construction permits issued were for wastewater treatment facilities with discharges to surface waters. These construction permits were typically for municipal and industrial facilities. Permits to discharge were issued when the wastewater facilities were completed. These permits to discharge were essentially approvals to place systems into operation as the permits did not normally contain any effluent restrictions except on flow.

Very few sewer (collection) systems were issued construction permits until the mid to late 1960s. During that time period, problems with wastewater treatment systems being hydraulically overloaded came to light. As a result of this, the State Board of Health placed more emphasis on requiring construction permits for sewer collection systems and ensuring adequate wastewater treatment capacity was provided by municipal systems before permits were issued for subdivisions, industries, etc. that would connect to the municipal systems. Also, enforcement actions which required expansions and/or upgrades of treatment facilities were taken where appropriate.

In 1971, the South Carolina Legislature restructured State Government and the Pollution Control Authority was made a separate state agency. The State Board of Health was responsible for: the shellfish program; the drinking water program; wastewater systems serving private development, state owned facilities (such as highway rest stops), schools, nursing homes, hospitals, etc.; the recreational water facilities (swimming pools), and sanitary landfills. The Pollution Control Authority was responsible for the industrial and hazardous waste landfill program, the air pollution control program, the federal wastewater grant program, and the permitting of wastewater systems owned by municipalities, counties, Public Service Districts, and industries as well as wastewater systems serving subdivisions with 250 or more lots. Because of the overlap of responsibilities the two agencies coordinated on a number of projects and in some cases each issued their own permit for the same activity.

To eliminate the duplication of services, the SC Legislature again restructured State Government in 1973 by merging the State Board of Health and the Pollution Control Authority back into the one state agency called the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control. From this merger, the entire wastewater program including the construction permit program was placed under the Bureau of Water Pollution Control. The Industrial and Agricultural Wastewater Division and the Domestic Wastewater Division of the Bureau of Wastewater and Stream Quality Control handled the wastewater construction permit program at that time. The Bureau was renamed the Bureau of Water Pollution Control in 1980.

In 1994, the SC Legislature restructured state government based on a "Cabinet Form" of Government. However, DHEC along with several other agencies were not included in the "Cabinet" which was under direct control of the governor. This restructuring moved all the environmental permitting programs in South Carolina under DHEC. This did not affect the wastewater construction permit program since it was already the complete responsibility of DHEC.

In 1996, DHEC merged the Bureau of Water Pollution Control and the Bureau of Drinking Water Protection into one Bureau named the Bureau of Water. At that time the Domestic Wastewater Division and Drinking Water Division were merged into one Division which was named the Water Facilities Permitting Division. The merger of the two Bureaus did not affect the Industrial and Agricultural Wastewater Division as it related to the wastewater construction permit program. However, at that time, the Industrial and Agricultural Wastewater Division was renamed the Industrial, Agricultural, and Storm Water Permitting Division to better reflect the program areas. 

In 2005, the Industrial, Agricultural and Storm Water Permitting Division merged the Federal, Energy, and Pretreatment Section into the Industrial Wastewater Permitting Section. The name of the combined section is the Industrial Wastewater Permitting Section.

In 2006, the Industrial Wastewater Permitting Section was moved into the Water Facilities Permitting Division and the Construction Permitting Section was moved into the Industrial, Agricultural, and Storm Water Permitting Division.  The Industrial, Agricultural, and Storm Water Permitting Division was renamed the Storm Water, Construction and Agricultural Permitting Division.The Water Facilities Permitting Division’s name remained unchanged. In 2007, all wastewater permitting was consolidated into the Water Facilities Permitting Division.

Construction permits are required for all sewer systems and wastewater treatment facilities including industrial pretreatment facilities. Plans and specifications are submitted for review and approval before these systems may be installed. The Bureau has streamlined the permit issuance process by implementing a "Delegated Review Program" (local entities perform review in lieu of SC-DHEC) and a "Standard Specification Program". Also, the Bureau prioritizes projects based on the circumstances related to the project.

Bureau of Water . Phone: (803) 898-4300 . Fax: (803) 898-4215 . Contact Us