DHEC will discuss Denmark's Dirty Water

(WRDW)
Published: Mar. 27, 2018 at 6:47 PM EDT
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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

DENMARK, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - Fear, concern and suspicion increase after a explains why he will not allow the professor who helped expose the Flint water crisis to test the city's wells. Now DHEC is stepping in. It will meet with folks in town next Thursday.

Denmark, South Carolina is the type of town where everybody knows everyone. Stories here flow faster than water in the creek. And as one goes, "The vultures perch on the city's water tower because of what is inside of it."

Pauline Brown told us her story last fall. It's the same story she's been telling folks in town for years.

Liz Owens: "Is there a problem in the water here in Denmark?"

Pauline Brown: "Yes there is."

She and others in town do more than share stories. They shared their water with Dr. Marc Edwards. He helped uncover the Flint water crisis.

"As you know your water was really really bad in 2009. It was probably really bad five years later and still not good," Dr. Edwards told Pauline Brown after testing her water.

Dr. Edwards wants to test the city's wells but the mayor told him no.

Mayor Gerald Wright: "I thought it would be a sort of an insult to the folks at DHEC to have him come behind them and to do the very test they recently done."

Liz Owens: "So you don't want to do it because you believe it would be insulting a state agency?"

Mayor Gerald Writer: "No, I didn't say that."

Criticism has poured from both citizens and lawmakers. Liz Owens went to Columbia to get answers.

"Over the years we have had some concerns from community members about discoloration," Myra Reece with DHEC said. The South Carolina Department Health and Environmental control regulates drinking water. It also makes sure towns like Denmark comply with national drinking water standards.

Denmark has a history of not following federal standards for testing drinking water. "When you look at their compliance history right now they're currently complying with all the health based standards," DHEC said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sets the standards. One standard is a water system cannot have more than 15 parts per billion of lead.

Dr. Edwards says he found levels higher than that in Denmark but the EPA allows high lead levels it in up to ten percent of homes. DHEC's most recent test last fall results show acceptable levels of lead. But, get this, DHEC itself doesn't collect the water for testing. Neither does it choose which homes to test. So who does? Check out the contact name for Denmark water system on DHEC's website. Gerald Wright. Mayor Gerald Wright.

Liz Owens: "There has been a lot of questions concerning the mayors motives. Has there ever been there ever been a case where you turned down a site plan or found where they've been using friends or family or not sampling?"

Myra Reece: "I've not personally experienced anything like that."

Last fall, DHEC requested additional lead testing after hearing complaints. The mayor submitted seven samples. The addresses of those samples are on DHEC's website.

Liz Owens went to each of those addresses and talked with the home owners.

Denmark Home Owner: "My brother worked for the city."

Liz Owens: "Oh he works for the city?"

Denmark home Owner: "He did before retiring he was with water."

Liz Owens: "You must know the mayor pretty well?"

Denmark Home Owner: "I know him quite well."

All but one person was home and they all knew the mayor.

"We are very interested in counties like Bamberg and towns like Denmark. It's important for denmark to not only provide safe drinking water today but also in the future as well," DHEC said.

DHEC wants to hear the stories from Denmark for themselves. DHEC is holding a public meeting about the town's water on Thursday, April 5th at Denmark Tech inside the autortoriam. It start's at six o'clock. Dr. Edwards and Mayor Wright have both been invited to attend.

In the meantime, DHEC is encouraging residents with concerns about their drinking water to call them, at (803) 533-5490.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

DENMARK, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - Fear, concern and suspician increase after a explains why he will not allow the professor who helped expose the Flint water crisis to test the city's wells. Now DHEC is stepping in. It will meet with folks in town next Thursday.

Demark, South Carolina is thetype of town where everybody knows everyone. Stories here flow faster than water in the creek. And as one goes, "The vultures perch on the city's water tower because of what is inside of it."

Pauline Brown told us her story last fall. It's the same story she's been telling folks in town for years.

Liz Owens: "Is there a problem in the water here in Denmark?"

Pauline Brown: "Yes there is."

She and others in town do more than share stories. They shared their water with Dr. Marc Edwards. He helped uncover the Flint water crisis.

"As you know your water was really really bad in 2009. It was probably really bad five years later and still not good," Dr. Edwards told Pauline Brown after testing her water.

Dr. Edwards wants to test the city's wells but the mayor told him no.

Mayor Gerald Wright: "I thought it would be a sort of an insult to the folks at dhec to have him come behind them and to do the very test they recently done."

Liz Owens: "So you don't want to do it because you believe it would be insulting a state agency?"

Mayor Gerald Writer: "No, I didn't say that."

Criticism has poured from both citizens and lawmakers. Liz Owens went to Columbia to get answers.

"Over the years we have had some concerns from community members about discoloration," Myra Reece with DHEC said. The South Carolina Department Health and Environmental control regulates drinking water. It also makes sure towns like denmark comply with national drinking water standards.

Denmark has a history of not following federal standards for testing drinking water. "When you look at their compliance history right now theyre currently complying with all the health based standards," DHEC said.

The U.S. Enviromental Protection Agency sets the standards. One standard is a water system cannot have more than 15 parts per billion of lead.

Dr. Edwards says he found levels higher than that in Denmark but the EPA allows high lead levels it in up to ten percent of homes. DHEC's most recent test last fall results show acceptable levels of lead. But, get this, DHEC itself doesn't collect the water for testing. Neither does it choose which homes to test. So who does? Check out the contact name for Denmark water system on DHEC's website. Gerald Wright. Mayor Gerald Wright.

Liz Owens: "There has been a lot of questions concerning the mayors motives. Has there ever been there ever been a case where you turned down a site plan or found where theyve been using friends or family or not sampling?"

Myra Reece: "I've not personally experienced anything like that."

Last fall, DHEC requested additional lead testing after hearing complaints. The mayor submitted seven samples. The addresses of those samples are on DHEC's website.

Liz Owens went to each of those addresses and talked with the home owners.

Denmark Home Owner: "My brother worked for the city."

Liz Owens: "Oh he works for the city?"

Denmark home Owener: "He did before retiring he was with water."

Liz Owens: "You must know the mayor pretty well?"

Demark Home Owner: "I know him quite well."

All but one person was home and they all knew the mayor.

"We are very interested in counties like Bamberg and towns like Denmark. It's important for denmark to not only provide safe drinking water today but also in the future as well," DHEC said.

DHEC wants to hear the stories from Denmark for themselves. DHEC is holding a public meeting about the town's water on Thursday, April 5th at Denmark Tech inside the autortoriam. It start's at six o'clock. Dr. Edwards and Mayor Wright have both been invited to attend.

In the meantime, DHEC is encouraging residents with concerns about their drinking water to call them, at (803) 533-5490.