Hardeeville councilman sued over failure to pay pollution fine

rlurye@islandpacket.comApril 9, 2014 

A Hardeeville city councilman faces a lawsuit and criminal charges in connection with alleged pollution violations discovered on his property, according to legal documents.

Sal Arzillo, who owns the recycling business Carolina Specialized in the Hardeeville Industrial Park, owes the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control more than $3,600 of a $4,000 fine he agreed to pay in October 2012, according to a lawsuit filed by the agency.

DHEC sanctioned the councilman after a 2010 inspection alleged several violations on Arzillo's 12 acres, including filling wetlands, failing to install a silt fence and other erosion-control devices, and failing to properly dispose of vehicle parts and waste oil.

Arzillo also was indicted March 27 by the state Attorney General's Office, which accuses him of two violations of the Pollution Control Act and one violation of the Solid Waste Policy and Management Act.

Arzillo said he agreed to the DHEC penalty because agency investigators threatened to fine him $50,000 if he did not cooperate. However, he quit making payments after the first monthly installment of $333 when he decided to contest the fine.

DHEC declined to comment on the lawsuit or Arzillo's accusation.

"I was intimidated by these guys," Arzillo said. "I stopped payments on it because things were getting pretty relentless."

A spokesman for the S.C. Attorney General's Office said he could not comment on the ongoing criminal case. Arzillo said he plans to plead not guilty to all charges at his arraignment Tuesday.

The councilman says he was unfairly fined by DHEC because the wetlands on his property are manmade -- the result of a canal that runs through the park and periodically overflows because its pump was lost years ago.

Jasper County administrator Andrew Fulghum said the pump was either stolen or removed for another purpose, and Arzillo has led a push to improve the industrial park's drainage for about 10 years.

"If the pump was still running like it's supposed to be running, this issue would have never come up," Arzillo said.

Interim city manager Rose Dobson-Elliott said the city hopes to complete the pump project within four months. No cost estimate was available Wednesday, but the project will be paid for with money left over from grants to Jasper County, she said.

The councilman said he also has planted vegetation along the canal to prevent erosion, and obtained an industrial-site permit to allow for the vehicle and oil debris used for his recycling business and a trucking company he ran at the site.

Arzillo also said he is working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to make sure the dirt is properly placed on his property; an agency representative will visit his business next week to tell him if any changes are needed, he said.

An EPA spokesman had not responded to questions by Wednesday afternoon.

Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.

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