Flood maps could hinder Agrium rebuild after fire

Smoke pouring into the Hartsville sky in the aftermath of the Agrium plant fire.

Hartsville leaders fear new federal flood maps could keep Agrium Fertilizer from rebuilding.

Last week, a fire destroyed the plant's warehouse, leaving 60 people out of work.

Hartsville Mayor Mel Pennington said, "It's not prohibiting them from building down there, but it's making the process more difficult." Since Agrium first built its facility, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has changed the flood zone maps in Hartsville. Now, Agrium would have to meet stricter guidelines, making it more costly for the company.

Mayor Pennington says the maps could also impact any future expansions for major companies like Sonoco and Progress Energy because they too are now in the flood zones. "The lines they've drawn are grossly misrepresented in that map," Pennington said.

He argues the study FEMA did to arrive at the new flood zone maps was too limited. He says FEMA's study didn't take into account the fact that spillway dams on Lake Prestwood and Lake Robinson, operated by Sonoco and Progress Energy, prevent any flooding in the impacted area. "Sonoco and Progress Energy both control their flood gates, so, technically it can never flood," Pennington said.

The City of Hartsville and Darlington County Council have appealed the new flood maps. We contacted FEMA to get their take on it, but we haven't heard back from them.

Agrium officials won't say if the flood mop issue will impact their decision to rebuild, but it will be talked about at a town hall meeting set for Thursday night in Hartsville.

The meeting is open to the public.

It starts at 7 p.m. at the Center Theater, 212 North 5th Street in Hartsville.

Officials with the City of Hartsville and Agrium will be there to answer questions following an update on the fire.

Let us know if you plan to attend, or what you want us to find out at the meeting. Leave a comment below.