Denmark facing fine for not fixing issues within water system

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DENMARK, S.C. (WJBF) — The City of Denmark, South Carolina is facing a fine for not fixing problems within its water system.

In documents obtained by NewsChannel 6, we’ve learned the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control ordered the City to pay a $4,000 to the agency by August 2. “And it has been paid,” Mayor Gerald Wright said at a recent council meeting.

DHEC issued a consent order on July 2 citing a number of deficiencies in the system discovered during a sanitary survey. In South Carolina, DHEC performs sanitary surveys on all public water systems every one to five years depending on system classification. Based on a survey result, the system is rated satisfactory, needs improvement, or unsatisfactory.

April’s survey listed deficiencies including:

  • The annual testing of backflow prevention devices had not been conducted in 2018 and 2019 at several locations.
    • A backflow prevention device is used to protect potable water supplies from contamination or pollution due to backflow. In water supply systems, water is normally maintained at a significant pressure to enable water to flow from the tap, shower, or other fixture.
  • Malfunctioning fire hydrants identified during testing completed in 2018 had not been repaired or replaced.
  • A flushing program had not been developed and implemented in the Voorhees College master-metered distribution area. This was noted during a sanitary survey on January 15, 2019.
  • A plan had not been submitted to DHEC by March 4 to address the recommendations from the April 19, 2018 Voorhees elevated storage tank inspection report and the April 20, 2018 Nibco elevated storage tank inspection report. Also, a plan and schedule to address the maintenance deficiencies of the Bamberg County Industrial Park elevated storage tank had not been submitted to the Department, and the tank had not been incorporated into the City’s operating procedures. This, DHEC says, was documented and the item rated “unsatisfactory” during two past sanitary surveys.
  • Deficiencies noted during the February 23, 2018, and January 15, 2019, sanitary surveys had not been addressed.

“So I think that the City needs to get to the root of the problem, Councilwoman Hope Long Weldon told NewsChannel 6’s Shawn Cabbagestalk.

Weldon says that this is not the first time that the City has been fined since coming to council in 2009. To make sure it didn’t happen again, she asked the Director of Public Works for an update on the status of improvements. at a previous meeting. Director Charles Shugart says that the fine is a result of a 2018 survey but since his second day on the job, his department has done what state officials asked. “Since the 2019 sanitary survey, we’ve answered every question they’ve asked. Submitted paperwork for everything that they have asked for. I don’t know anything that we haven’t answered,” Shugart added.

After deficiencies in the system were discovered during the survey in April, a code enforcement meeting was scheduled with city officials. Those meetings are usually scheduled when officials believe an environmental law or regulation may have been violated or if violations haven’t been corrected within a reasonable amount of time. “The results were presented to the City in the spring of the year. Here it is we’re in summer and I’m on the Council and I live here in the City, and I’m unaware as to what the concerns were,” Councilwoman Weldon added.

We’ve learned in addition to the Mayor, the City Administrator, and the Director of Public Works attended — something the Councilwoman said that she didn’t even know about. Mayor Wright said that the meeting was an executive function. “So those persons who should have been there were there. Not at any point would we receive information and not share it at the proper time,” he stated at a recent council meeting.

The order concluded the City violated the State Primary Drinking Water Regulations in that it failed to properly operate and maintain the system. Violators of the law could be forced to pay up to $5,000.

“Today is the 15th of July. So you had May, you had June, and now you have half of July. I’m on the council and I live in the City and I still haven’t been contacted about the enforcement order,” Councilwoman Weldon stated.

The order doesn’t cite the City’s water quality but the water system.

What’s Next?

Besides the $4,000 fine, the City must turn off the Bamberg County Industrial Park storage tank from the distribution system.

If the tank is placed back in service, the City must:

  • Notify DHEC
  • The interior and exterior must be inspected by a professional tank servicing company.
  • All recommended repairs must be completed and a final report from the contractor verifying the completed work must be submitted to the Department before placing the tank back in service.

On June 11, 2019, DHEC officials say that the agency received an email from the City stating that, after reviewing pressure test data with local engineers on June 10, 2019, they determined that removing the Bamberg County Industrial Park elevated storage tank from service should not interfere with the PWSs ability to maintain adequate pressure. The letter also stated that the Owner’s representatives would be meeting with Bamberg County Council on July 1, 2019, to request ownership of the tank, with all rehabilitation and repairs to it included in the Rural Development tank project if the request was approved. If the request is not approved, the City will cease using it, according to DHEC.

Within 30 days:

  • The City must submit a written request of the intended use of Well 4 Cox Mill Well – G05160. If the request is not approved by DHEC, the well will be “properly abandoned” by a certified well driller. Documentation must be submitted within 60 days after notifying the agency.

Within 180 days:

  • Well 1 Brooker Center – GO5108 and Well 3 Legare Street – G05110 must be properly abandoned by a South Carolina certified well driller and documentation submitted.
  • The water system must be surveyed to identify all cross-connections; ensure that all proper backflow prevention devices are installed, tested, and added to the inventory for annual testing of all cross-connections; and submit the updated cross-connection program with the test results to the Department for review and approval.
  • An updated Valve and Hydrant Maintenance Program must be submitted and approved. Also, all malfunctioning fire hydrants identified back in 2018 will either need to be repaired or replaced.
  • An updated system map including identifying all of the wells, water plants, storage tanks, valves, hydrants, line locations, line sizes, and master meter connections must be submitted and approved.
  • A revised procedures manual with the system’s current configuration must be submitted
  • All of the recommended repairs to the Voorhees and Nibco elevated Storage tanks per the March 29, 2019 inspection reports must be completed. A final report from the contractor verifying the completed work must be completed.

Is the City prepared for the timeline?

Those datelines are something that Councilwoman Weldon thinks the City is not prepared for. “We are now caught up in some requirements and the most fevered part of the report has to be done in 180 days. I’m not sure that we are at the point where we understand the application, what they are asking us to do, how to do it, and the time frame,” she said.

“We’ve already completed most of those and answered a lot of those questions,” Director of Public Works Shugart responded. ” You’ll see we actually had those done prior to the [code enforcement] meeting that we had. We actually had them done prior to their mandates. They were in the works,” he added.

Following several revelations, Weldon offered a suggestion of a diagnostic assessment of the City’s water to move it into a positive direction. “Once the diagnostic assessment has been done, there needs to be descriptive as to how to correct the problem. But to keep putting a band-aid onto a situation only makes it worse and that’s what we are dealing with now,” she added.

The Mayor has scheduled a work session on Wednesday, July 24 at 11 a.m. to discuss the fines and concerns in greater detail.

Check out the full letter sent to officials, click here.

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