Some residents in the Town of Timmonsville said their water is worse now that the City of Florence has taken over the town's water and wastewater systems.
They said it's discolored and has rust in it.
"Dag on it. We got to drink this water in this town and nothing is being done about. Women can not wash their hair in this right here without it turning their hair red," said Clemmons Anderson.
"You can see this. Once in a while it clears up , then you've got clear water, then you've got this again. And you don't dare drink this stuff. We've bought water to drink now for over a year. And it doesn't get any better," said Sybil Raines.
Residents say they've called the City of Florence several times, but feel as if they're getting the runaround.
"We call them and we can't get any answers," said Michael Brown.
We contacted Florence City Manager Drew Griffin and he released the following statement on the matter:
"In many places we have made significant improvements within the "old" Timmonsville water and sewer system. Remember the City has to spend in excess of $12,000,000 to correct both the wastewater and water issue within the System.
The Consent Order that we accepted in behalf of the Town provides for a five year corrective action plan. The problems associated with the Town's system is the result of the lack of maintenance and neglect over many years. It can not fixed without extensive work that requires SCDHEC and EPA approval -- design -- permitting --- and construction.
We are the process of each of those step. The City has always stated that it will be two to three years to turn the system around. EPA thought it actually may take longer and therefore the five year corrective time frame within the Consent Order. We are contact with the local SCDHEC office every week. We provide a detail report to EPA every quarter.
Any statements to the contrary are the results of individuals not understanding the scope and depth of the problems associated with the utility system. That is certainly why we did an extensive review of the issues associated with the system." said Griffin.
Residents say they know it's going to take time to get the water system working properly, but they can't understand why their water bills are so high in the meantime.
"I feel like we're getting cheated. I mean my water used to be $50 , now it's gone up. It used to (be) $50 , now it's gone up to $75," explained Anderson.
Drew Griffin said one third of Timmonsville's water customers had a meter in disrepair, no meter, or w ere not being billed for some other reason.
He added that in those cases, the Town had generally billed a minimum bill and that if someone had been billed a minimum bill for an extended period of time the corrected bill would certainly be an adjustment for customers.
"We(Florence) start billing for actual usage then the bill for that customer would increase. Remember the City is billing the Town of Timmonsville's customer the very same rate that had been adopted by the Town. We agreed to hold that rate constant for a minimum of two years. The only reason a person has for paying a higher rate is if they are using more water or we are recognizing the actual usage and billing the same. This was an issue we knew would arise once the City started billing correctly," explained Griffi n in an emailed statement.
We called the SC Department of Health And Environmental Control (DHEC) to ask them if the water was safe to drink because it's discolored and has rust in it.
DHEC issued the following response on the discoloration and safety of the water in Timmonsville:
"The discoloration of the water in your pictures is indicative of high iron content. Iron in drinking water is not considered a health concern, but the aesthetic (i.e. taste, odor, discoloration) quality of the water is such that most people would not consider it drinkable. Iron occurs naturally in ground water in the Timmonsville area, and, over time, iron will build up in areas of the distribution system that experience low usage. During heavier flows, this sediment can get stirred up and the result is what you see in the pictures. With proper treatment and water distribution system management, the impact of iron can be reduced over time.
The City of Timmonsville is monitored monthly for bacteriological water quality as required by regulation. Other parameters are monitored in accordance with a schedule established by the EPA. Timmonsville is currently in compliance with all health-based standards. Iron is not considered a health concern and, as such, does not have a maximum contaminant level and is not routinely monitored in drinking water," explained Jim Beasley with DHEC.