SECTION 48-1-90. Causing or permitting pollution of environment prohibited; remedies.

(A)(1) It is unlawful for a person, directly or indirectly, to throw, drain, run, allow to seep, or otherwise discharge into the environment of the State organic or inorganic matter, including sewage, industrial wastes, and other wastes, except in compliance with a permit issued by the department.

(2) The permit requirements of subsection (A)(1), Section 48-1-100, and Section 48-1-110 do not apply to:

(a) discharges in a quantity below applicable threshold permitting requirements established by the department;

(b) discharges for which the department has no regulatory permitting program;

(c) discharges exempted by the department from permitting requirements; or

(d) normal farming, silviculture, aquaculture, ranching, and wildlife habitat management activities that are not prohibited by or otherwise subject to regulation.

(3) Subsection (A)(2) must not be construed to:

(a) impair or affect common law rights;

(b) repeal prohibitions or requirements of other statutory law or common law; or

(c) diminish the department’s authority to abate public nuisances or hazards to public health or the environment, to abate pollution as defined in Section 48-1-10(7), or to respond to accidental discharges or spills.

(4) A person must first petition the department in writing for a declaratory ruling as to the applicability of a specific, existing regulatory program to a proposed or existing discharge into the environment, provided that the proposed or existing discharge is not exempt or excluded from permitting as is set forth in subsection (A)(2). The person proposing to emit or emitting such discharge must be named on and served with the petition. The department must, within sixty days after receipt of such petition, issue a declaratory ruling as to the applicability of such program to such discharge. If the department determines a permit is required under such program and that no exception or exclusion exists, including, but not limited to, the exceptions set forth in subsection (A)(2), the department must issue a declaration requiring the submission of an application to permit such discharge pursuant to the applicable permitting program. If the department further determines that immediate action is necessary to protect the public health or property due to such unpermitted discharge, the department may further declare the existence of an emergency and order such action as the department deems necessary to address the emergency. Any person to whom such emergency order is directed may apply directly to the Administrative Law Court for relief and must be afforded a hearing within forty-eight hours. Regardless of whether a hearing is held, the department must revoke all emergency orders as soon as conditions or operations change to the extent that an emergency no longer exists. A party contesting any department decision on a petition may request a contested case hearing in the Administrative Law Court. Notwithstanding the administrative remedy provided for in this section, no private cause of action is created by or exists under this chapter.

(B)(1) A person who discharges organic or inorganic matter into the waters of this State as described in subsection (A) to the extent that the fish, shellfish, aquatic animals, wildlife, or plant life indigenous to or dependent upon the receiving waters or property is damaged or destroyed is liable to the State for the damages. The action must be brought by the State in its own name or in the name of the department.

(2) The amount of a judgment for damages recovered by the State, less costs, must be remitted to the agency, commission, department, or political subdivision of the State that has jurisdiction over the fish, shellfish, aquatic animals, wildlife, or plant life or property damaged or destroyed.

(3) The civil remedy provided in subsection (B)(2) is not exclusive, and an agency, commission, department, or political subdivision of the State with appropriate authority may undertake in its own name an action to recover damages independent of this subsection.

HISTORY: 1962 Code Section 63-195.12; 1952 Code Section 70-116; 1950 (46) 2153; 1969 (56) 764; 1970 (56) 2512; 1975 (59) 241; 2012 Act No. 198, Section 1, eff June 6, 2012.

Effect of Amendment

The 2012 amendment rewrote the section.

Posted by: Byron King on 01/30/24 (This information is only accurate as of 01/30/24. You must contact SCR for updates and changes to this information after 01/30/24 as laws and regulations may change over time. SCR 803-772-5206 or email info at or email byron at

This information is not legal advice. This information is intended only to provide general information and may not be relied upon as specific legal guidance. Legal counsel should always be consulted before acting in reliance on this information.