EPA proposes settlement over Timmonsville water problems

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control announced a proposed settlement Tuesday with both Timmonsville and Florence to resolve drinking water and sewer problems, according to a release from the EPA.

The proposed settlement will resolve Timmonsville's liability for violations of the Clean Water Act, South Carolina Pollution Control Act and South Carolina Safe Drinking Water Act.

Timmonsville has indicated that it has no capital to contribute to the short and long-term fixes of the drinking water and sewer systems, estimated to cost approximately $12 million, according to the EPA.

On June 25, the citizens of Timmonsville approved a referendum measure authorizing the transfer of the systems to Florence. The proposed consent decree facilitates the transfer, and requires that Florence implement measures to bring the systems into compliance, the report says.

"The inadequacy of Timmonsville's drinking water and sewer systems have posed a threat to public health and the environment," said Stan Meiburg, Acting Regional Administrator for the EPA in the Southeast.

Timmonsville has had unauthorized 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, according to the EPA. Timmonsville has also failed to fully comply with numerous federal and state orders to correct deficiencies and, since 2012, has experienced increasing difficulty operating, maintaining and, in some instances, undertaking needed repairs, says the report.

"EPA and DHEC have been working together for years to bring Timmonsville into compliance, including issuing federal and state enforcement orders directing Timmonsville to take corrective action on its water and sewer systems," said U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles.

"It appears that the absence of capital has been one of the main obstacles to Timmonsville's compliance. In a terrific show of cooperation and leadership, the Cities of Timmonsville and Florence together with DHEC and EPA have come together to forge a solution. This is a good result for South Carolinians," says Nettles.

Though not responsible for the compliance failures, Florence has agreed under the Consent Decree to accept the transfer of the drinking water and sewer systems from Timmonsville and bring them into compliance with all applicable environmental regulations, according to the release.

The proposed consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval before becoming effective.

A copy of the consent decree is available here.