A small Florence County town will give up control of its drinking water and sewer systems after multiple Clean Water Act violations in the past few years.
The town of Timmonsville has agreed to a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, and the City of Florence.
As part of the settlement announced Tuesday, the city of Florence (located about five miles to the northeast) will take ownership of the Timmonsville infrastructure and the estimated $12 million in needed repairs.
“The inadequacy of Timmonsville’s drinking water and sewer systems have posed a threat to public health and the environment,” Stan Meiburg, Acting Regional Administrator for the EPA in the Southeast said in a statement. “The transfer to Florence and the improvements required under the consent decree will result in tremendous benefits to the surrounding rural community and the Sparrow Swamp/Lynches River watershed.”
The EPA announcement said Timmonsville officials indicated the town had no capital on hand to pay for either short-term or long-term fixes. In a June referendum, the town’s residents voted to turn the system over to Florence.
“After determining that Timmonsville could not adequately correct those concerns, we agree that having these services provided by the City of Florence will best protect public health and the environment,” DHEC director Catherine Templeton said in a statement. “This consent decree will ensure all needed work is accomplished.”
The consent decree states that Timmonsville has had numerous overflows of untreated raw sewage and discharges of partially-treated wastewater, and has failed to properly operate and maintain its drinking water and sewer systems. The EPA says Timmonsville has also failed to fully comply with numerous federal and state orders to fix those deficiencies. Since 2012, the town has increasingly had difficulty operating, maintaining and even undertaking needed repairs.
Some of those violations included not putting enough chlorine into the town’s drinking water to kill bacteria. A sewer line also collapsed in Timmonsville’s downtown area, backing up sewage into nearby buildings.
The proposed consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval before becoming effective.