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Denmark fined an additional $9,000 Print E-mail
Written by Jerry Durgan   

The city of Denmark has been fined another $9,000 for failing to comply with (DHEC) Orders “to correct all the deficiencies by March 6, 2012.”

On December 6, 2011, the SCDHEC issued a Consent Order citing violations of the State Safe Drinking Water Act and the State Primary Drinking Water Regulations. A civil penalty of $3,000 was paid to DHEC by the city in January, with deficiencies to be corrected by March 6, 2012. On March 21, DHEC staff conducted a follow-up sanitary survey to “determine if the operation and maintenance deficiencies had been corrected.”

The December Consent Order, based on a Sept. 9, 2011 survey, rated Denmark ’s water service as “unsatisfactory” in 13 categories of the Public Works Service and “needs improvement” on Water Quality, stating that “there was periodic discoloration … and no detailed flushing program.” According to the Dec. 9, 2011 letter to the city, “This deficiency was documented and the item rated ‘unsatisfactory’ during the June 24, 2009 sanitary survey and ‘needs improvement’ during the August 18, 2010 sanitary survey.”

The latest March survey continued to rate the city’s potable water as “needs improvement” and a rating of “unsatisfactory” in eight other categories -- Valve/hydrant maintenance, Flushing program, Fire flow, Leak detection, Operation and control, Corrections from previous surveys had not been corrected, Procedures Manual, and Staffing. The survey noted that “hydrants had not been flow tested in three years.”

Residents of Denmark have been complaining about their water quality and water billing since at least June of 2009. Some have said that “yes, the water is better than it was, but it’s still not what I’d call ‘good’.” Others from certain areas of the city still complain about the “water we have to drink, cook with, and bathe is still very bad.”

All-in-all, by May 9, the city of Denmark ’s DHEC penalties will have cost the taxpayers of Denmark a total of $13,000 since December, 2011. “This’s crazy,” said a resident who didn’t want to be named. “Why in the … isn’t Wright (mayor) or Heyward (city administrator) fixing the problems? I just don’t understand it at all.”

To answer some of the questions, Denmark Mayor Dr. Gerald Wright explained Monday that the city’s response was “simply not sufficient.” Following the November, 2011 DHEC survey, Wright explained that they (the city) “thought we had taken sufficient action to rectify many of the concerns. We hired a consultant with expertise in water quality and service to help us through the process. We thought we could expeditiously address the problems noted by DHEC. In the follow-up tour in March (2012) we thought we’d made a difference but it turned out that we hadn’t satisfied all of the requirements. DHEC did acknowledge that we’d satisfied some of the findings,” he said.

Following the April 16 Notice of Violation, Wright said that “We are currently in the process of hiring a certified full-time Public Works Water manager to work with our two part-time employees to quickly correct DHEC’s findings. We had a plan in place,” he noted, “but it was not as comprehensive nor as organized as they (DHEC) wanted. Our documents and records were not organized. We just did not follow through as quickly as we should have. To be honest,” he admitted, “we thought we could correct the deficiencies within time and budge constraints but now it looks like we’re going to have to spend some money to make these problems go away. We’ve discussed the several issues with the applicants for the full-time position to be assured that he (or she) will be able to correct our deficiencies quickly and satisfactorily.

“With a thirty-day window to correct the deficiencies,” Wright said, “we’re going to have to move quickly but we think we’ll be able to meet the deadline.” Ticking off DHEC’s deficiencies noted in the April 16 survey, Wright explained that “the first thing we are doing is bring on board the full-time manager to create and implement a valve and hydrant maintenance program, a flushing program, a fire flow testing program, a leak detection program, an organized documents system, and a Procedures Manual, all comprehensive and reviewable. To be honest,” he said, “we have not been as proactive in our water quality and maintenance as we should have and this has hurt us and the residents.”

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