Drainage project some blame for Georgetown sinkholes nears completion

SCDOT crews working on the drainage project.

GEORGETOWN, S.C. (WPDE) - The majority of the work is complete on a SCDOT drainage project with the goal of alleviating flooding in Georgetown. The project was briefly put on hold about nine months ago because of a sinkhole.

At the corner of Front and Fraser streets, DOT crews are building support work for a long awaited drainage project. A retention pond will hold stormwater runoff then underground pumps will send it to the Sampit River.

"We had a whole lot rain here last week and a guy told me that he noticed what had been done already had helped with that a lot. Still had a lot of water collecting, but it evacuated much faster than in the past," says Georgetown Mayor Jack Scoville.

In November of last year, sinkholes began forming off Fraser Street. That caused a building housing several businesses to collapse and several others to crack, which delayed the project. Today, the hardest hit area is cleared away and Bank of America is using a temporary location.

"Some of them have had insurance luckily. Some have had to move to other locations and were able to do so. And some of them just had to close their doors," adds Scoville.

Whether the drainage project is to blame is still under review by the Insurance Reserve Fund. Scoville, who admits he's not an engineer, says if it wasn't the cause, then it was a major factor.

"Intuitively you would say yeah, the pumping of the water, it caused the water table to drop and there's limestone there and all these factors come together and they create sinkholes. The fact of the matter is there were sinkholes in this area in the 1950's," he adds.

As work continues, Scoville says the project is important to the city. Flooding could impact an evacuation during a hurricane.

"That's going to mean maybe a 100-200,000 people cannot get off Waccamaw Neck that have to turn around and go back and impact Socastee and Myrtle Beach, that part of the evacuation, and make a terrible situation much worse," he explains.

Kyle Berry with SCDOT says the drainage project is expected to be complete by early 2013.