Denmark locals fish from river while sewage leaked from broken pipe for years nearby, scientists say


DENMARK, S.C. (WJBF) — If you ever cast a line in the Little Salkehatchie River near Denmark, South Carolina, you may want to keep reading. A broken sewage line has been discovered but we’re told the sewage leaking — exposing locals to what scientists say is years of toxic mess.

“Oh my gosh, it had very high levels of e.coli which is an indicator for sewage so the residents felt that the water was contaminated with sewage at that point, we proved they were correct,” Dr. Marc Edwards told NewsChannel 6’s Shawn Cabbagestalk.

Edwards is an expert on water treatment and corrosion. He helped uncovered problems involving Flint, Michigan’s water — eventually forcing the City, the State of Michigan, and the nation to declare a state of emergency over their water problems. He says that after this discovery in Denmark, he was told not to come back to town.

“They had actually called my boss at the university and said get that professor under control and tried many things to try and keep us away,” he recalled.

We’ve learned the source of that pipe is coming from the local wastewater treatment facility.

“It’s potentially very serious,” Dr. Edwards said. “Bad bacteria in water can cause several deaths if it’s not treated properly. The fact that the town won’t let us sample, it really raises suspicion. There’s just no legitimate reason for not letting the residents get samples of their water,” he added.

The stream of water where the pipe is located off of Voorhees Road runs across the road and downstream into the Little Salkehatchie River.

“So there’s a huge possibility that the fish that they’re catching are contaminated,” Deanna Miller Berry said.

Berry with Denmark Citizens for Safe Water says that there are too many secrets and unanswered questions surrounding the water crisis in the City.

“This is unacceptable,” she said.”I don’t know how anyone can sleep at night knowing that not only did you poison the city for 10 years with a non-approved EPA chemical and then you’re also dumping waste and you know it’s flowing into one of the local rivers that people fish that’s a problem,” she added.

Shawn made a trip to City Hall to speak with Mayor Wright about the issue. While he didn’t want to speak on camera, he said, “I’m not aware of that. If there is and it’s been reported, we’ll have someone on it right away but I’m not aware of that.”

“The only thing we want the mayor to do is work with us. We are not trying to work against the mayor. The mayor has put us in a position that we have to do what we have to do get the answers that we need,” Berry said.

Dr. Edwards added that there is one thing that can be done to turn the water crisis in the opposite direction, allow him and his team to come back to the City.

“It comes down to being transparent, honestly, what do you have to hide? If you have nothing to hide, let people come and sample the water,” he added.

The build-up to the right of the pipe is 15 years old.

Count on NewsChannel 6 to keep you updated on this developing story.

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