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March 4, 2021
Social Mission: Congaree Riverkeeper
Fig’s mission is to serve our community well, and that goal would simply be unattainable without the hard work of nonprofits like Congaree Riverkeeper, whose mission is to look out for the Broad, Lower Saluda, and Congaree Rivers to ensure clean water and healthy rivers for both the wildlife and the people of the Midlands.
The nonprofit was founded after a tragic incident in the summer of 2008, when a private sewer company dumped more than 1 million gallons of raw sewage into the Lower Saluda River. Although state and federal agencies issued some fines, a few locals concerned about the health and future of our rivers felt that not enough was being done to hold the polluters accountable and to preserve our rivers for future generations. And that’s when they banded together to form Congaree Riverkeeper circa 12 years ago.
Serving as our Congaree Riverkeeper since 2011, Bill Stangler (pictured) knows no limits to protect the rivers in the Midlands of South Carolina and their tributaries. On a single day, he can go from pulling samples at a sewer outfall in his canoe to rushing across town to testify on a bill at the State House. While his lawsuit and policy wins are important to him, he certainly appreciates being out in the field cleaning up our rivers and promoting smart water policies through education. “Sometimes it’s the little things that stick out, like getting to host students for a cleanup,” Bill explains. “The lawsuits and policy wins are important, but pulling a hundred plastic bags and a few tires out of the river always feels pretty good too.”
The coronavirus pandemic has certainly made much of his and his team’s work harder. “We’ve had to shift meetings and events to virtual formats, we can’t host in-person fundraising events, and we’ve reduced the size and frequency of some of our volunteer activities,” adds Bill. “BUT, for many people, the pandemic has also been a reason to explore the outdoors more, and gain a new appreciation for our natural resources and the need to protect them.”
On the same appreciation note, Bill also acknowledges Congaree Riverkeeper’s impressive achievements as an organization last year. As a team fueled by generosity, they were able to join other conservation organizations in filing a federal lawsuit to stop the rollbacks and protect the National Environmental Policy Act, one of our country’s bedrock environmental laws. Wrapping up another successful water quality sampling season with the Midlands Rivers Coalition was also another highlight.
For 2021, the team’s vision is to enhance Congaree Riverkeeper’s existing programs and continue addressing critical issues like the Congaree River coal tar cleanup. In addition they also aim to tackle new environmental issues, including the regulation of dangerous chemicals and the restoration of our environmental laws.
Rivers belong to each and every one of us, and as you experience our waterways, consider joining Congaree Riverkeeper’s fight for clean water and healthy rivers. Donations fund a variety of programs at the nonprofit, from cleanups and water quality monitoring to river patrols and water policy work. You can also get involved by signing up for a river cleanup, and by staying engaged to help push our water policies towards a better future for everyone in South Carolina.