Water Testing Blocked by South Carolina Mayor

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Water Testing Blocked by South Carolina Mayor

In January 2018, the mayor of Denmark in South Carolina, Gerald Wright, refused to allow a Virginia Tech professor, Marc Edwards, to test the city’s drinking water supplies for possible contamination. In response to requests from Denmark residents, Professor Edwards collected water samples from 54 homes. He also sought approval from Mayor Wright to test the city’s water wells. The mayor refused, saying that testing was unnecessary because the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) had already assessed the city’s water supply, and found it to be safe. However, Professor Edwards’ tests showed that water collected from several homes contained up to 20 times more lead than that permitted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as well as high levels of iron and manganese.

Update:  On January 23, 2018, South Carolina State Representative Justin Bamberg wrote to Mayor Wright urging him to allow testing of Denmark’s water wells. Rep. Bamberg stated that, “I am in support of allowing Dr. Edward’s team to independently test the city’s water wells . . .While it is unlikely to result in any alarming results given the precious DHEC testing, to the extent the testing reveals any issues, at least those issues can immediately begin to be addressed for the benefit of the citizens.”

Mayor Wright subsequently allowed DHEC, the University of South Carolina, and the Ediston Riverkeeper to test Denmark’s water. On April 5, 2018, DHEC released a report finding that “[t]he City of Denmark currently meets the drinking water standards and requirements of the lead and copper rule.” A spokesperson for DHEC did, however, acknowledge that the water contains iron and magnesium which “can cause odor, color, and taste [issues] with the water.” The spokesperson noted that “[s]econdary standards [related to iron and magnesium] are there to give municipalities guidance but are not enforceable . . . We [at DHEC] can discuss strategies municipalities can take to improve secondary contaminant issues.”



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