Aiken Co. Council to discuss Edisto River potato farm

Monday, Jan. 20, 2014

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- The Aiken County Council will consider a resolution aimed at a potato farm that could withdraw billions of gallons from the South Edisto River near Windsor.

Walther Farms, a supplier of potatoes for the Frito-Lay company, has plans to pump at least six billion gallons of water from the South Edisto River every year for what'll be the largest potato farm in the state.

On Tuesday, County Council members will consider a resolution "urging the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control to strengthen its regulations pertaining to the removal of water from the Edisto River."

A DHEC analysis on the proposed water withdrawal says taking roughly 27 million gallons of water each day will have a "minimal near-field and far-field impact on the safe yield of the Edisto River Basin."

However, many argue the river will run dry, especially during dry summer months. DHEC's river flow data is taken from a sampling site in Denmark, which many say doesn't reflect the portion of river that runs through Aiken County.

Many, including lawmakers, say a current state law, the South Carolina Surface Water Withdrawal, Permitting Use, And Reporting Act of 2010, should be changed. Current law allows farmers to withdraw massive amounts of water from rivers without telling the public, as long as they pump within what DHEC calls a "safe yield." Other factors aren't taken into account.

If passed, County Council's resolution will ask DHEC to strengthen regulations related to that law.


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