August 2, 2015

More than 20 dogs recovering after suspected dog-fighting operation in Richland County

Twenty-four dogs are recovering at a Richland County animal shelter following the arrest of a man who police say was part of a suspected dog-fighting operation in

Richland County Sheriff's Department Photo

Richland County Sheriff’s Department Photo

Columbia.

Sixteen dogs and eight puppies, all of them pit bulls, were recovered at the scene. The dogs were sent to the City of Columbia Animal Shelter on Sunday night. According to Lieutenant Curtis Wilson of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, the dogs were malnourished and there were signs that the pit bulls had been in dog-fights.

However Marli Drum of the City of Columbia Animal Shelter said that their conditions could have been much worse. Drum said that no chronic wounds have been found on any of the dogs as of Tuesday afternoon.

“Had we had some serious wounds, there would have been some more vet care needed, and we’ve seen those before,” said Drum. “Fortunately it was not anything serious with these guys this time around. They’re lucky to be in the shape they’re in, but thankfully removed from a very bad situation.”

An on-staff veterinarian will medically examine the dogs and then a professional trainer will provide a behavioral evaluation, according to Drum.

Drum also said that once the dogs are healthier and properly trained, the shelter will focus on finding the dogs a new home. The dogs will be put up for adoption when the shelter believes they are safe to put back in the community. When the dogs are ready for adoption, they will already be spade, neutered, microchipped, vaccinated and tested for heartworms by the shelter. Drum said there is no adoption deadline for the dogs at this time, but acknowledged that space is an issue during the summer.

“We hope to give them as much time as we can and really try to make an effort for these guys because they’ve had a rough start to life. We’d like to see them get a second chance at enjoying what being a companion pet means.”

People who are interested in adopting the pit bulls can contact the shelter at (803)-776-7387.

Wilson said investigators are looking into when the suspected dog-fighting began.

Jacobi Anthony Green, 21, was taken into police custody Sunday night after deputies found a stolen motorcycle at his home on Crane Church Road. Police say there was a strong smell of marijuana coming from inside the home. Deputies then spotted Green running away from the house, which led to a short pursuit on foot, but deputies ended up catching the suspect.

The dogs were found inside a building on Green’s property. A dog-fighting pit was also found inside the building, according to investigators.

“Unfortunately it happens far too much,” said Wilson referring to animal fighting. “It’s something that Richland County sheriff’s deputies continue to crack down on. We have investigators who are assigned specifically on these types of crimes. As we continue to get out there, we’ll continue to locate, find and arrest those who are responsible for such devious acts.”

Police say that the investigation is ongoing and that more arrests could be on the way.

“We’re continuing to investigate. Additional arrests and charges could be forthcoming,” Wilson said.

Wilson said individuals who know anyone involved in this incident or anyone involved in dog-fighting should call Crimestoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC.

Green is charged with two counts of animal fighting and baiting, threatening the life of a public official, receiving stolen goods, resisting arrest, and simple possession of marijuana.

 

Jeremy Urso contributed to this report.

Conservationists criticize Rep. Duncan for amendment protecting ‘incidental’ bird deaths

The snowy egret is one of roughly 1,000 species protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act

The snowy egret is one of roughly 1,000 species protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act

[Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article erroneously stated Duncan’s amendment would include eagles, which are protected under a different law]

South Carolina Republican Congressman Jeff Duncan is getting heavy criticism from at least one conservation group over his support of a budget amendment the group claims would endanger migrating birds.

But Duncan said he’s only trying to protect homeowners and businesses that could be charged with a felony for accidental bird deaths that occur on their property.

At issue is language in the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act that gives the U.S. Justice Department the authority to prosecute individuals for the deaths of more than 1,000 migratory bird species protected against under federal law. Duncan said the law does not differentiate between bird deaths caused by hunting or by crashing into a large window. A first offense can result in a misdemeanor and fine, but a second offense is treated as a felony.

“The (law was) written to target the intentional killing of migratory birds and birds of prey,” he said on the House floor earlier this month. “I don’t think anyone believes that accidental deaths as a result of solar panels or wind energy production warrants felony prosecution.” The Justice Department has prosecuted a small number of cases under the law, including a Wyoming energy company that received a $2.5 million fine and five years probation after more than 370 birds collided with wind turbines at two of its facilities.

[Read more…]

State’s environmental board says it won’t block search for offshore oil, gas

This image shows an example of seismic surveys (USGS)

This image shows an example of seismic surveys (USGS)

South Carolina’s top environmental board said it will not block a federal permit allowing oil exploration companies to conduct seismic testing while searching for oil and natural gas offshore.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) board’s subcommittee declined Thursday to reverse a ruling from agency staff last month allowing the tests by survey firm Spectrum Geo. The company plans to search for oil or gas off the coast through a process known as “seismic surveys.” Most of the surveys will be conducted at least 50 miles offshore, according to the permit.

The surveys use air guns, which are towed behind vessels and shoot blasts of compressed air through the water and into the seabed. Researchers use reflections from the blast to map out the ocean floor, identify underwater fault lines, and analyze geologic formations that could hint about buried oil and gas deposits.

[Read more…]

Senate confirms new SC health and environmental chief

Then-nominee Catherine Heigel spoke to senators in a confirmation hearing last month (Image: SCETV)

Then-nominee Catherine Heigel spoke to senators in a confirmation hearing last month (Image: SCETV)

The South Carolina Senate has unanimously appointed a Greenville attorney and former Duke Energy executive to run the state’s health and environmental agency.

The 39-0 vote on Thursday means Catherine Heigel can now take over as director of the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). One senator (State Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington) abstained from voting. The vote was one of the last taken in the Senate before their regular session ended on Thursday.

“I’m honored and grateful to be entrusted with leading an agency that oversees issues that are important to and impact the lives of all South Carolinians,” Heigel said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the members of the Board, DHEC’s talented staff and the citizens of this great state to uphold the agency’s mission to promote and protect the health of the public and the environment of South Carolina.”

The agency’s board, whose members are appointed by the governor, chose Heigel to be their nominee in April. Heigel will assume her duties immediately, according to a statement from the agency.

Heigel was president of Duke Energy’s South Carolina operations from March 2010 to June 2012 and recently worked as an attorney with the accounting firm Elliott Davis Decosimo in Greenville. Heigel enjoyed bipartisan support due to her environmental and business management background.

She has said she will resign positions on the board of state-owned power utility Santee Cooper and the South Carolina chapter of the Nature Conservancy. Heigel plans to commute to Columbia from her current home in Greenville.

Boxcar being used to store remains of building that once held radioactive waste

Interior of pad site. SRS photo.

Interior of pad site.
SRS photo.

U.S. Energy Department management and operations contractor Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS) is using a variety of creative and what it believes are more efficient methods to dismantle and dispose of a 10,000 square foot building that once housed radioactive waste at the Savannah River Site (SRS) near Aiken.

That includes unusual methods like burying a railroad boxcar containing the steel from the building.

“I really appreciate how we’ve come together as a team, dedicated to doing things smarter, safer and better while finding ways to cut costs,” Solid Waste Operations Manager Don Turno told South Carolina Radio Network.

The boxcar is now loaded with material and dismantled steel supports that had been in the walls and roof of the demolished building known as Pad 16.  SRNS decided to use the salvaged boxcar as an alternative to purchasing eight additional “sea land” containers, each costing nearly $4,000, to perform the same function.

In all, 18,500 square yards of wall and roofing material and 60,000 pounds of steel were removed for permanent disposal. “We’re not just working with our feet and hands, but our heads as well through use of our expertise in project management strategy,” Turno said.

Another process efficiency associated with this effort involved gathering and using excess wooden pallets from across SRS that had been classified as low-level waste due to their use in other nuclear projects. Using these slightly contaminated pallets made securing and placing the Pad 16 material into the box car for permanent disposition a more effective and faster process, Turno said.

The Pad 16 structure formerly stored hundreds of 55-gallon drums containing radioactive transuranic (TRU) waste, most of which is now at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, a DOE disposal site in New Mexico. TRU waste consists of items normally found within an industrial setting that have become contaminated with radioisotopes that have a half-life greater than 20 years, such as plutonium. Tools, protective clothing, containers, rags and other debris would be typical examples.

The excess railroad boxcar and its Pad 16 contents have been classified as low-level waste and will be buried at SRS under current existing regulations.

The next phase of this project involves the pouring of a thick concrete cap to seal the flooring that remains at Pad 16. This will create a surface that is designed to force rainwater to naturally flow off the new structure. Approximately 450 cubic yards of concrete will be poured to create this protective cap.

The project is expected to be completed by July 31, which Turno said is six weeks ahead of the original schedule.