– By Tiffani Ireland –
The Edgefield County Water and Sewer Department came under scrutiny this week when a local broadcast media outlet reported that an Edgefield County water and sewer plant had released toxins into the Savannah River. The report, based on information provided to the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), claimed that the plant had released ammonia and lead in the Savannah River via releases into Beaver Dam. However, The Advertiser spoke with a spokesperson for Edgefield County Water and Sewer on Tuesday morning following the report, and that spokesperson admitted to violations from a county plant in regards to ammonia but stated that the plant believes it did not have any lead violations.
Speaking to The Advertiser, John Hare with Edgefield County Water and Sewer said that in the spring of 2014 a mechanical failure occurred at the Brooks Street plant, a 20 year old site, in Edgefield County. The part was identified, but ordering and receiving the part had an 8-12 week time frame. Due to this, the plant did release ammonia into the water system during that time. However, the plant spent $36,000 to replace the affected part and another just like it that had not yet failed. Since that time, the plant has had no further ammonia violations.
In regards to the accusation that the plant also released lead into the Savannah, Hare said that the Water and Sewer Department believes that the plant did not release any lead into the system but that instead those findings can be traced back to the laboratory contracted to perform the testing. Hare explained that the plant began receiving “small spikes” in lead detection after previously having no detections of the metal. In fact, for the past ten years the plant has had no detection of lead in their samples. In a consent order conducted by DHEC in regards to this matter, it was also noted that this testing facility had been experiencing “quality control problems with the test method.” It was because of this that the plant decided to split the testing between this lab and another. When the split test were performed, the new testing lab could find no detection of lead whereas the old lab continued to show results of small lead spikes. As a result, the plant quite using the old lab and now uses the new lab to perform tests. Since making the switch to the new lab, the plant has had no further detections of lead. However, Hare did say that the plant was fined by DHEC for its reported ammonia and lead violations; that $8400 fine was paid in September.
Hare stated that the plant has a activated a three-part correction plan that includes changes to some practices, elimination of others, and repairs. Hare also said that the plant has approved $20,000 for a preliminary engineering project to look for possible upgrades to the water and sewer system. However, Hare also reminded that the water released into the water system by Edgefield County is minimal compared to other plants in the area, especially some located in Georgia. Calling Edgefield County water releases a “very, very small drop in a very large bucket,” Hare stated that the Brooks Street plant discharges 200,000 gallons of water a day into the water system. Hare said that that amount is very small compared to the “tens of millions of gallons” released by other plants. However, Hare did agree that any toxin release is too much and to that end assured The Advertiser that the Edgefield County Water and Sewer Department is “taking steps to correct things we can.”