DFD to shift operations during road repairs

by Samantha Lyles


Driving down Orange Street and Wells Street in Darlington can be a bumpy, rocky affair, since both streets frequently experience sinkholes and cave-ins after heavy rains, but the city just received word that help is on the way. Early next year, SC Department of Transportation (SCDOT) will undertake an extensive road repair project intended to stabilize the streets and improve storm water flow. “Their plan is to dig the entire road up from Wells Street all the way down to Orange Street, and some in front of the fire station,” says Darlington Fire Department Chief Pat Cavanaugh. “They’re going to try and figure out why we keep getting these sinkholes.” While the streets are torn up, DFD will move its trucks and equipment to the old cotton gin complex on East Broad Street. The trucks will be parked in a heated warehouse (owned by Mayor Curtis Boyd) to keep the tank water from freezing, and firefighters will bunk down in rented mobile office trailers just outside. “The guys will be stationed there 24 hours a day. If they have a call, they will be at the trucks to respond. If we have a call and we need volunteer drivers to go, we’ve instructed them to meet there and pick up the extra trucks,” Cavanaugh says. “It should not affect service…in fact, from this location, everything is on a level surface. At the station, everywhere we go from there is an uphill climb, so from this warehouse everything should be easier to get to.” Initial estimates say the project should be completed in 45 days, but Cavanaugh says DFD is prepared to operate offsite until at least March. SCDOT will also repipe the storm drains in that area to safely shuttle water away and prevent ponding. Even if these repairs stabilize the most vulnerable parts of the streets, Orange and Wells will remain vulnerable to new sinkholes because the underlying soil is uniquely susceptible to erosion from storm water above and unseen springs flowing below. “Mr. Earl B. Wilson used to talk about springs flowing under this site, and when they were kids they used to swim there,” says Cavanaugh. He notes that while this project will address issues with the state-owned roads, it could unearth problems outside SCDOT’s scope of work. “DOT is only going to fix what DOT needs to fix…if they find tunnels running under the (fire station), they’re not going to help us fix that. We’ll have to bring someone in and try to fix that ourselves,” Cavanaugh says. With the recent addition of a new heavy duty ladder truck, there is a renewed awareness of sinkhole hazards and the damage they could cause to crucial DFD equipment. Cavanaugh says fire department staff and city officials have discussed a permanent relocation of the fire station to a more stable site, and he says that Darlington city manager Howard Garland is working to secure grant funds for that project. The SCDOT Wells and Orange repair project is scheduled to begin on Jan. 4, 2021. The two roads will be closed to through traffic.

Author: Stephan Drew

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