The U.S. Justice Department, on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, filed a complaint in U.S. District Court against the Town of Timmonsville for wastewater and drinking water violations, according to a news release sent Wednesday.
The Justice Department wants the court to order Timmonsville to address "the imminent, substantial and potential risks to human health posed by discharges of raw sewage or partially-treated wastewater into the environment, as well as take steps necessary to bring the wastewater and drinking water systems into compliance with federal and state laws."
The release goes on to state:
"Keeping raw sewage out of the waters of the United States is one of the EPA's top priorities. Raw sewage includes a variety of harmful pollutants, including disease causing organisms, metals and nutrients that threaten human health and degrade water quality.
For years, Timmonsville has been in violation of the Clean Water Act (CWA), the South Carolina Pollution Control Act and the South Carolina Safe Drinking Water Act. Timmonsville has also failed to fully comply with numerous federal and state orders to correct deficiencies and, since 2012, the town has experienced increasing difficulty operating, maintaining and, in some instances, undertaking needed repairs to its wastewater and drinking water systems.
Since 2005, the EPA has issued two administrative orders directing Timmonsville to address threats to public health and the environment arising from failure to properly operate and maintain its wastewater system. The complaint documents how Timmonsville's wastewater treatment plant has been discharging partially-treated wastewater nearly continuously since September 2012, and that the town's sewer system has had several significant overflows of untreated, raw sewage from broken or blocked sewer lines.
The complaint also documents deficiencies DHEC identified with the drinking water system, including failure to maintain adequate levels of residual chlorine in the system, failure to maintain adequate fire hydrant flow pressures and failure to properly operate and maintain water filters at the main water treatment plant. Since 2007, DHEC has issued three consent orders directing Timmonsville to address threats to public health arising from failure to properly operate and maintain its drinking water system.
EPA and DHEC have been meeting with Timmonsville to discuss how to address the ongoing environmental and public health threats posed by noncompliance. Timmonsville has announced plans to pursue transfer of ownership and operation of both its wastewater and drinking water systems to the City of Florence, S.C., and is putting this issue to a referendum vote in a special election on June 25, 2013.
On multiple occasions since May 2012, Florence has provided assistance to Timmonsville with respect to the operation and maintenance of the sewer system. Timmonsville also currently purchases a significant portion of the town's drinking water from Florence."
We are waiting for information on what residents are supposed to do in the meantime and will post an update with that information as soon as we get it.
To see a list of the stories we've covered on Timmonsville's water problems, click here.