Darlington City Council seeks grant for storm water drainage repairs

Darlington City Council met Tuesday night at City Hall downtown. On the agenda--a plan to fix poor drainage in one area of the city

DARLINGTON, SC (WBTW) – Darlington City Council met Tuesday night at City Hall downtown. On the agenda–a plan to fix poor drainage in one area of the city. Some council members weren’t happy with the plan, while others said it’s now or never.

Engineers prepare to drop a camera down a manhole on Reid Street to test the strength of the pipes below. August, 2016.

The floods that came both in 2015 and last year with Hurricane Matthew only proved to further expose problems with storm water drainage in Southwest Darlington. One council member said the choice is literally on of life and death.

“It’s imperative,” said Ward 2 Councilwoman Elaine Reed. “It’s really, really deteriorated. It’s really bad.”

Reed said residents in the area she represents need help.

“Everyday we get complaints about it,” Reed said.

An area of the ditch near Chalmers street taken in 2015 when residents began complaining of stinky fumes causing respiratory issues

Reed explained that for several years now, poor storm water drainage has caused standing water near Chalmers Street in the area of the Hartsville Oil Mill, causing what neighbors say are unbearable smells, and bringing mosquitoes and breathing problems.

Back in 2015 the city contacted DHEC to perform tests on the water and air quality in the area. Reed said the results were scary.

“It has been documented that there’s respiratory problems as a direct result of the smells and the fumes of the things that come from there,” Reed recalled.

Last year, Council asked an outside company to study the drainage problems in the city so they could comply with DHEC mandates. An original $500,000 grant to fix pipes in Southwest Darlington turned out not to be enough.

“Once we got in there, we saw that was really the problem,” Reed said

It’s imperative,” City Councilwoman Elaine Reed says of fixing the drainage system in Darlington. “Everyday we get complaints about it.”

Workers found a blocked pipe feet below the city streets causing an even bigger backup across several city blocks. DHEC mandates require a storm water drainage system that can withstand up to 25 years of use, however–

“The first one didn’t meet those requirements,” Reed said.

Workers fixing a pipe on Pearl Street after a sinkhole several feet deep opened on this busy street in July 2016.

Tuesday night Council passed first reading of an ordinance that would expand the storm water grant to $1.9 million. Some council members had second thoughts about using extra money for the repairs, but Reed said it’s now or never.

“We were one of only two grants awarded in the state of South Carolina for this, and if we do not apply it to this, we will lose it,” Reed explained.

City Planning Director Lisa Chalian-Rock said that many of the city’s old clay pipes–some more than 90 years old–have been replaced. She said while it’s mostly invisible work happening below ground, it’s incredibly important for the future of the city.

The storm water grant project is set to be completed by April of 2018.