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Four county dams on DHEC emergency list
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Four dams in Kershaw County are on a S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) emergency orders list. According to DHEC’s website, the orders are part of the agency’s “proactive assessment process” looking at what are known as “Class One” and “Class Two” dams across the state. DHEC emphasized even with emergency orders, there are no immediate threats to public safety.

“As a result of the 1,000-year flood, many dams across our state were damaged and have been identified as needing repair,” DHEC Director Catherine Heigel said in a press release issued Friday. “DHEC remains committed to ensuring public safety and will be aggressive in pursuing all necessary safety measures to make sure that dam owners are making these needed repairs as quickly as possible.”

Each of the four dams is privately owned, and while the press release indicated DHEC would provide input and assistance to dam owners and operators, it said the dams’ owners are responsible for maintaining the structural integrity of the dams.

The four Kershaw County dams on the list are:

• Cook Pond Dam, impounding Kelly Creek off Heath Pond Road, south of Elgin.

• Eloise Watson Dam, impounding Beaverdam Creek near Green Hill Golf Club off Ridgeway Road in Lugoff.

• Fredericksburg Lake Dam, impounding Gillies Creek in the Fredericksburg subdivision off U.S. 601 near I-20 in Lugoff.

• Hermitage Mill Pond Dam, impounding Big Pine Tree Creek, off Bishopville Highway east of Camden.

The orders for the Fredericksburg Lake and Hermitage Mill Pond dams classified their hazard potential as “high, meaning it is likely that loss of life or serious damage to a home, industrial facility commercial facility, important public utility, main highway or railroad would result from its failure.”

The orders for the Cook Pond and Eloise Watson dams classified their hazard potential as “significant, meaning it is likely that damage to a home, industrial facility, commercial facility, secondary highway, railroad or interruption of service of relatively important public utilities would result from its failure.”

Furthermore, for each dam, DHEC “determined through field inspections that the referenced dam appears unsafe and a potential danger to property. It has been determined that it is necessary that immediate maintenance action be undertaken by the dam owner to prevent failure of the dam and the serious damage to property that would result from its failure.”

The orders include instructions for the owners to, under the supervision of a South Carolina licensed and qualified registered professional engineer, immediately lower the water levels in or even empty the reservoirs and/or take any other steps necessary to safeguard life and property. Owners have the responsibility to notify downstream property owners and have until 5 p.m. today to submit documentation to DHEC of their compliance with the orders.

The owners are further ordered to have a detailed inspection of their dams and submit those reports to DHEC no later than 5 p.m. Oct. 30.

The orders were signed Thursday, the day after DHEC released a status update on dams across the state. It included Cook Pond Dam, classifying it as “C2,” meaning “failure will not likely cause loss of life, but may damage infrastructure.” On its website, DHEC listed Cook Pond Dam on a “Records on Failed Dams (Pre-Flood) Web page.” All reports were from before the 2015 flood event; this list did not include the other three dams under emergency orders.

The March 2013 report attached to the Cook Pond Dam link referred to the dam as the Kirby Pond Dam. One notation in the report stated trees on the dam structure would have to be evaluated because water could end up “piping” through their roots, “weakening the dam and possibly causing failure.” A second notation said inspectors found an eroded area on the downstream slope near an outfall pipe which needed to be monitored. DHEC suggested it might have been necessary to place suitable fill material in the area.

Otherwise, the inspector’s report indicated no problems and said the visible condition of an outlet channel was “good.”