DENMARK – Volunteers with Denmark Citizens for Safe Water, with the help of the Orangeburg and Barnwell Walmart stores, have distributed nearly 2,000 cases of donated bottled water to residents worried about the quality of the city's water in the past two weeks.
Residents had complained about the discolored water coming from their spigots for years, many of them showing up seeking answers at Denmark City Council meetings with bottles of the nasty-looking brown water.
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control had repeatedly assured Denmark officials and citizens that the water was safe to drink. However, a CNN report, following a year-long investigation, recently revealed that the chemical HaloSan was used in one of Denmark's wells for a decade even though it is not approved for such usage by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Rep. Justin Bamberg, D-Bamberg, has said he and Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, met with DHEC officials to determine how the decision was made to use the non-EPA approved product in drinking water.
A group of Denmark citizens has filed a class-action lawsuit against the city over the use of HaloSan.
Activist Deanna Berry, who helped organize Denmark Citizens for Safe Water, said the volunteers distributed more than 900 cases of bottled water to 510 residents on Nov. 23. The tractor-trailer-load of water was donated by the Barnwell and Orangeburg Walmart stores, she said.
In addition, Berry said the volunteers distributed another 1,000 cases of bottled water to Denmark residents on Nov. 28. That truckload of water was purchased by Bakari Sellers of the Columbia-based Strom Law Firm and Wilson & Luginbill of Bamberg, two of the law firms representing the Denmark citizens who filed the class-action lawsuit against the City of Denmark.
Also assisting with the distribution was the Denmark-Olar High School basketball team, Berry said.
Denmark residents were grateful for the donated water, "but concerned as to how long we would be able to provide safe drinking water," she said.
“You have to think these citizens have been poisoned for 10 years by our local government and our state officials. So they don't trust them at all. How can you blame them?” Berry said.
“ … People are afraid of what will happen if we aren't able to get any more donations and if they would be forced to use water that's still not being treated properly,” she added.
“We can't afford to fight the way other cities have," Berry said. "We need people’s help. Send us water. We are not collecting or asking for money. We are asking for water ... "
Berry said she is working with disaster relief agencies from Georgia, New Jersey and surrounding areas to provide water distribution in Denmark at least once a week, " … at least enough where citizens can use that water to cook and drink. Especially those new mothers who have to fix a bottle in the middle of the night and not have to worry about what's coming out of her faucet,” Berry said.
She said it is her "prayer" that major businesses and corporations from neighboring cities, counties and states will come to the aid of the citizens of Denmark.
“I can provide them with the costs on what a truckload of water will cost from Walmart or our local Piggly Wiggly in Denmark,” Berry said.
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