Pee Dee town deals with wastewater woes, state officials step in to help

Pee Dee town deals with wastewater woes, state officials step in to help

LAMAR, SC (WMBF) - The town of Lamar in Darlington County has received a consent order from the South Carolina Department of Health And Environmental Control for their failing wastewater system.

Darnell Byrd McPherson, the town’s mayor, said the small town has struggled with its wastewater and drinking water systems for years and admits it’s taken a toll on businesses coming to the area.

"When things are old 40, 50 years old they just start breaking down,” Byrd McPherson said.

Under the DHEC consent order received on January 17th, the town has 30 days to address the issues. DHEC also has the authority to issue a fine for failing to have certain systems in place.

This isn’t the first time the town has come under fire from DHEC. Previously, the town was sent a consent order because of their drinking water system that showed high levels of radium, which is a cancer-causing agent. Byrd McPherson said they have since been purchasing water from Darlington County.

While the town’s wastewater plant is not completely tarnished, it needs a lot of work. She said the oxidation pond should have at least 4 to 5 pumps working, right now only 2 work consistently. Byrd McPherson estimated a cost of 2.5 million dollars to fully repair the system.

"So it’s overworking the system. We've got old pumps that need to be replaced... the parts they don't even make anymore so it's a great need," she said.

Stepping in to help is Senator Gerald Malloy. Malloy, who is from Hartsville, presented the town with a check for 350,000 dollars Monday night.

"So small town the USA, there's an issue there because we can get swallowed up by larger areas," he said.

Both Malloy and the mayor believe with the town a few miles from I-20, the area could be a gold mine for business. But it's the town's poor infrastructure that Byrd McPherson said is getting in the way. She recalled one business that backed out because of just that.

"They said you know we're going to put this on hold. We'll circle back around to you all once you make some significant improvements," she said.

The mayor adds they need more support from elected officials like Malloy to make that happen. While 350,000 dollars is a small amount compared to the millions it'll cost to fix the system, Mayor Byrd McPherson said it's a start to opening the town back up for business.

"There are pockets of genuine potential and greatness, but without proper infrastructure, it will never rise to the top," she said.

“If we give them a reason to come, they’re going to come and so we got to take care of our infrastructure issues so that we can be certain we take the citizens here,” Malloy said.

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