Pee Dee

DHEC downgrades Pee Dee town's water system to "unsatisfactory"

LATTA, SC (WBTW) - The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) met with Latta officials this week to discuss its yearly sanitary survey results.

According to the report, DHEC downgraded the town's water system to "unsatisfactory" because of a leak that has developed on the 100,000 gallon Diversified Plastics tank, and lack of progress in correcting items from previous inspections.

Latta Town Administrator, Jarett Taylor, told News13 the safety and quality of the water was never called into question. He said the town has since made plans for the immediate future to repair lines on East Leitner Street, East Rice Street, East Main Street.

"We're moving water lines out from 301 right away," Taylor said. "And replacing existing sewer lines that are in 301 right away with a new and improved type of sewer line that lasts a long time."

Taylor said the town has made several improvements since it last spoke with DHEC in June.

"We've went after different pots of money," said Taylor. "We've applied for CDGB grants, we've applied for RIA grants, [and] we have spoke with the USDA on R&D grants and loans," he continued. "In the next two years we're probably looking to invest in about a little over 5 million dollars into our system, with the hopes that in the years to follow, we'll have a few more million dollars to follow it up, and do even more upgrades."

Taylor said most of the issues stem from when the town switched the water system.

"It's a two-fold issue," he explained. "Our water pumps used to come from the middle of downtown, and now we've switched our pumps to right outside of town, and when we switched our water treatment facility from the middle of town to outside of town, we had to reverse flow."

Taylor said reversing the flow of the water caused the sediment and rust that had been inside the old pipes to push out in the opposite direction.

"We're having problems with pipes bursting," he said. "We're fixing them at the rate we can fix them, but obviously we're a very small town, and we handle things the best we can."

Taylor said fixing the water is a money issue. He said the town needs about $9.3 to $9.6 million to replace 80 percent of the water lines, and 60 percent of the roughest sewer areas in Latta.

Taylor said the town recently received a $500,000 grant from the state.

"It's going to go to replacing East Leitner Street, East Rice Street, and East Main Street which are three neighborhoods that we know we have predominantly iron lines in," Taylor said about the grant from the state. "What we're trying to do is systematically phase out all of our iron lines, and replace [them] with PVC."

He said the town also received a Research and Development grant for $493,000, and a State Revolving Funds (SRF) loan which will go toward creating a 300,000 gallon water tank. 

Taylor said the 300,000 gallon tank will more than double the size of Latta's current storage capacity on water.

"We'll also take one of our older tanks that has rust inside of it offline," he said.

The town administrator said the water in Latta has been an issue for more than 20 years, but said council is doing more work than ever to fix the issue.

"I think right now, with the current state of the system, I think this council realizes and recognizes that unless we take large steps that have never been taken before by anyone, our system is going to fall into a state of disrepair that will never get it back," said Taylor.

Melissa Thompson lives in Latta, and said she buys bottled water because she doesn't trust the color of the water that comes out of her faucet.

"I think the water quality is terrible," she said. "For the price that we pay for water bills, the quality should be better," she continued. "We can't drink it half the time, we need to boil it, and then it's messing up our bathtubs. It's turning them yellow so we have to constantly clean" 

Thompson said she also gets worried about her children drinking the water.

"Sometimes I don't even want them to wash in the water," Thompson said. "I buy a lot of water so they don't drink the water, and I don't cook with the water."

Taylor said a comprehensive study of the sewer system will be done to determine where the leaks come from.

"It's the first comprehensive study that's been done in Latta since the mid 1970s," he said.

Taylor said work on the lines will begin at the end of the year into the beginning of next year.

"Permits have been in the process of being pulled currently," he said. "And I've been told late this year, and early next year you'll start to see some actual dirt-moving progress."

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