I-TEAM INVESTIGATES: Lawmakers Want Answers About Denmark Dirty Water

Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018
News 12 @ 6 O'clock / NBC 26 at 7

People wait in line for free water in Denmark

DENMARK, SC (WRDW/WAGT) -- Long lines for water, two lawsuits, and a lot of questions into how an unapproved chemical got into a town's drinking water.

Now a local lawmaker is demanding answers from the State of South Carolina. after a water expert found an unapproved chemical in Denmark's water.

Lawmakers want answers to three questions. How did the chemical get into the town's water? How dangerous is it and who's to blame?

Senior investigative reporter Liz Owens tells us how lawmakers plan to get those answers.

Take a drive through the town of Denmark and you'll see this.

"Mayor where you at?"
"He's doing damage control."
"Mayor where ya at?"
"He's doing damage control."

As the line for water grows so does the outrage.

"Each one is pointing a finger at another one but nobody wants to take responsibility."

This should never have happened here, this should have never happened in South Carolina.

"At no time did anyone say anything to myself as a state representative hey the water is clean and safe but we are using a chemical that we are not authorized to used so its a very big problem." says Justin Bamberg, SC State Representative.

Justin Bamberg represents the town of Denmark. These people are more than just constituents. They are family. They are friends.

"I have asked dhec and I am still waiting on answers from their organization what are the potential long term consequences if this chemical being introduced into the human body. And no one has provided that answer to me."

Which is why he sent this letter to the department of health and environmental control.

Halosan is often used as a pool disinfectant. The city of denmark had been injecting into one of its wells over the last ten years. It's not approved for use in drinking water by the EPA but Representative Bamberg says DHEC did more than just approve it.

"It's my understanding with talking about the city and DHEC it was DEHEC’s recommendation to the city that halosan be used to address the iron bacteria in that well and the city did it."

That's not what dhec told us.

"So who recommended this system and this specific chemical?"
"We don't really know."

"A lot of municipalities look at them for guidance."

"I think the state of south carolina namely DHEC bears the burden of the responsibility here."

Bamberg is forming a committee in the state house to find out how it happened so this doesn't ever happen again.

"There are so many questions here."

"I think there needs to be accountability."

Until then, people here will continue to wait on answers and...

"We got some water for ya come and get it."

...wait on water.
Answers could come sooner than later now that two law firms have filed two lawsuits on behalf of the citizens of Denmark.

Both are asking the state to turn over evidence like emails and internal reports.

Friday, November 23, 2018

DENMARK, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - At least five hundred people waited in line for free bottle water in Denmark. This comes after lawyers filed a class action lawsuit against the city for injecting a non-approved chemical into the water over the last ten years.

Hundreds wrapped around a block in Denmark. It looked like any other line on Black Friday expect these people were waiting on free bottled water. "We are very angry about this. It was the same story nothing was wrong the water was safe," Ramella Duncan said while waiting in line. "The children are our biggest concern and the elderly."

People in Denmark have waited a lot over the years. They waited a decade before learning about the chemical in their drinking water. "We are out to get water because we have HaloSan in this water," Duncan said. She trusts the city's water about as much as she trusts the city's leaders. "It's very sad. I mean words can't begin to describe it. How many people were fooled thinking the water was safe when it wasn't?" She isn't alone in her feelings of distrust. As one volunteer handed out water she chanted, "Mayor where you at? Mayor where you at?" Another volunteer chanted back, "He's doing damage control. He's doing damage control."

Earlier this year Mayor Gerald Wright blocked a well known water expert from testing the city's wells. The mayor told our Liz Owens, "It would be disrespectful to the folk at DHEC." Dr. Marc Edwards didn't get to test but he did research the name of a chemical he found listed in a recent water study of Denmark. HaloSan is a non-EPA approved chemical often used as a pool disinfectant. The City of Denmark was injecting into this well to clear the orange of the water. DHEC approved the city using HaloSan ten years ago. Neither the state or the city have admitted to being the one to suggest using the chemical.

"Each one is pointing a finger at another one but nobody wants to take responsibility," Duncan said. The people of Denmark are now holding both the state and city responsible for keeping them in the dark all these years about their water. Attorneys filed a class action lawsuit against the city this moth.

The state nor the city sponsored the water giveaway. A local resident asked Wal-Mart about donating the water earlier this week. Wal-Mart donated more than twenty pallets of water. The attorneys behind the class action lawsuit will giving away a truckload of water themselves on Wednesday from 5pm-6pm behind Denmark Furniture Company. Residents must show an ID to show they live in Denmark.