DENMARK –City Administrator Heyward Robinson announced that the city of Denmark will be hiring a public relations firm to assist Denmark with publicity regarding their water system.
Robinson said, “The South Carolina Regional Development Alliance has agreed to pay a public relations firm to assist Denmark with water issues.
“The proposed agreement is for three months. Part of the agreement includes the development of a website to provide public updates on plans to modernize the Denmark water system,” he said.
Robinson said they lost a major industry coming to Denmark because of the publicity the water system has been receiving.
“DHEC (S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control) says the water’s fine, and the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) thinks it’s fine,” he said.
Councilwoman Hope Long Weldon said, “One of the first things from the P.R. firm that we need is an explanation from DHEC and the EPA about what has been done with the water in Denmark.”
Robinson briefly mentioned the lawsuits against the city regarding the water system. He said that with the legal fees the city is accruing, they may have to raise property taxes and water bills.
Robinson also mentioned the separate consent order from DHEC, an order that includes a $4,000 fine. He said that Denmark has a list of things DHEC would like them to do and that they are doing well on those.
Councilman Calvin Odom asked during another part of the meeting how the city is doing on completing this list, and Public Works Director Charles Shugart stated they are doing very well. He also repeated this to Weldon when she inquired during part of the meeting.
Robinson said, “Denmark will disconnect from the water tank (at Bamberg County Industrial Park) as soon as we complete a water line for the building at the tank. The building beside the tank will be served from a Denmark water line that is separate from the tank.
“Currently, the building is served by a line from the tank. We hope to make the water tap this week for the new line. We have 811 approval. We are in almost daily contact with DHEC about our efforts,” he said.
Robinson stated they are obtaining prices for the abandonment of the Cox Mill Well, Brooker Center Well, and Legate Street Well under DHEC specifications.
“We do not use these wells. DHEC requires that grout be put in these wells,” he said.
“Specifications for the maintenance and any needed repairs for the Voorhees and NIBCO tank are being developed by our engineers,” he said. “The specifications are near completion, and we will bid this out soon. DHEC is being kept aware of our efforts.”
Robinson said that a computerized or electronic map of the water system has been completed, thanks to a $30,000 grant from DHEC to the S.C. Rural Water Authority. He thanked Shugart and Tim Freeman in developing the map.
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He also stated that backflow devices have been tested by owners, valves and hydrants are being updated, and updates have been included in the operations maintenance manual.
Speaking about the water system, Mayor Dr. Gerald Wright said, “I would challenge you to find a town or city that finds more funding.”
He mentioned the diligence of the city in replacing old water lines and dealing with contaminated areas and that issues with lines are not going to be completed in six months to a year but will take time.
“At no time have we distributed water that was a health risk. The water quality here is not in question,” Wright said. “I am asking you to reject this idea that we have this problem and that nothing has been done.”
Weldon said that in fall 2018, it was stated that there was a chemical in Denmark’s water.
“Let DHEC come to the town and say this chemical has an effect or does not have an effect,” she said.
“I heard someone say to a DHEC official that the people of Denmark will not understand,” she said.
She asked publicly that DHEC come talk to the people directly and bring their website to show to the people directly as well.
Weldon compared this to an earlier PowerPoint presentation on initiatives for health in the area by another division of DHEC and said that she and others understood that and could understand other presentations.
“We have not been derelict in any stretch of the imagination,” Wright said.
He asked that citizens come to city hall if they want to deal with something on a one-on-one basis.
Weldon asked if council could meet with the contractor regarding the delay in completion of the new city hall. Query-Pritchard Construction Inc. is responsible for the construction of the building.
Wright did not give Weldon a specific date.
Weldon said that it was on the record before that the building would be completed by November of last year and then was later reported in the newspaper that it would be completed by August of this year.
Robinson said that the new city hall could be completed as late as Thanksgiving of this year.
When asked when the city would meet with the contractor, Wright said, “We have not established a meeting date. We will be meeting with him as soon as possible within the next couple of weeks.”