Grant will help remedy “The Ditch”

"The Ditch" on Chalmers Street in Darlington Photo from June, 2015 by Jana E. Pye

“The Ditch” on Chalmers Street in Darlington
Photo from June, 2015 by Jana E. Pye

By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, <a href=””></a>

For residents of southwest Darlington who for decades have dealt with foul odors emanating from the notorious Chalmers Street ditch, help is on the way. The City of Darlington has been awarded state grant funds to remedy the stagnant water and noxious odors, and work on “the ditch” could begin this fall.

“The grant is being awarded by RIA – the South Carolina Rural Infrastructure Authority,” says Jannie Lathan, whose company, Lathan Consulting, will administer the grant. “We put in for $444,870 and they awarded the full amount.”

This project, officially called Southwest Drainage Project Phase 1, will install underground piping to keep the ditch clear.

Though residents have lived alongside this loathsome ditch for many years, their relationship reached a tipping point in June of 2015. Darlington city manager Howard Garland says that record heat that month – including a stretch of 15 days with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees – essentially “cooked” the ditch and heightened the stench to intolerable levels.

“We were put on notice by residents, and by sixteen candidates running for mayor and city council, that this was a major issue for our city,” says Garland.

Garland notes that when the city applied for RIA funding in the fall of 2015, much of that grant pool was directed toward improvements in Berkeley County in preparation for their new Volvo plant. Darlington was invited to re-apply in spring of 2016, and that second application focused less on stormwater remediation (which is not a top priority for RIA) and played up the health concerns of southwest Darlington residents.

Lathan and her associates went door to door in the affected community and got hand-written letters from residents detailing the negative effects “the ditch” had on their health, including chronic respiratory distress and nausea. The public safety emphasis pushed the application over the top and RIA fully funded the city’s grant request.

Lathan says the City of Darlington is required to kick in matching funds of $86,320, with $64,320 of that amount going for engineering, $1,000 for land acquisition, and $12,000 for project administration (to Lathan Consulting) over an 18 month period.

“We have 18 months to design, build, and get all the infrastructure work done from the time the grant is awarded,” says Lathan.

Garland says the city will move as quickly as possible to get through necessary procedures, such as putting the project out for public bids, securing contract approval from Darlington City Council, and completing site engineering work.

“In a perfect world, I would hope that we could have this bid out in August and awarded in September, and Phase 1 of the project could be completed by next spring,” says Garland. “We have two other phases that we’d like to propose to RIA as part of our long-term commitment to improve water, sewer, and stormwater infrastructure in Darlington.”

Author: Jana Pye

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