If you, like thousands of people in South Carolina, live near a smelly landfill, it just got more difficult to get compensation when your life is disrupted by unpleasant odors wafting your way.
The S.C. Supreme Court recently ruled that, while a company can be found guilty of trespassing when it produces dust or water that is transmitted to other people’s property, odors don’t count as trespassing. That includes hog farms, too.
That’s bad news for six neighbors of the towering Lee County Landfill near Bishopville, who sued the landfill operator for interfering with the use and enjoyment of their property. They say it is unpleasant to grill outside or sit in their yards.
One observer said odors can be so strong you have to take a shower.
A federal court had awarded each of three plaintiffs $77,500 and each of the other three $100,000. All were awarded $300,000 in punitive damages.
The landfill operator wasn’t happy and asked for a judgment on matters of state law. The S.C. Supreme Court ruled that it is possible to claim negligence based on offensive odors, but not to claim trespassing. The high court ruling also limits the amount that can be awarded for nuisance and trespass claims. That amount is tied to the property’s value.
The lawyer for the neighbors, Gary Poliakoff of Spartanburg, is hopeful his clients will still receive the damages they were awarded. And he hopes the landfill will be required to improve its operating practices to reduce odors or to shut down.
But any diminution of citizens’ ability to fight back against mega-dumps is a disappointment. Dumps can smell bad, look bad and lower property values.
South Carolina is, unfortunately, a state friendly to dumps. Other states ship their waste here for disposal. The small mountains of waste tower over nearby property and spread out over large footprints.
Some critics refer to South Carolina as the trash dump for the nation.
Despite their best efforts to stop mega-dumps from coming, rural South Carolinians without many resources often lose their battles and end up living next to a mountain of waste.
South Carolina leaders should wake up and smell the ... dump sites.
Stronger laws are needed to protect South Carolina from being a favored site for out-of-state waste.