Lamar hears options on wastewater plant, building inspections

By Samantha Lyles

Representatives from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) visited the March 9 meeting of Lamar Town Council to discuss the state of the town’s aged wastewater treatment system, and actions taken by the town and its contracted engineering firm to address those problems.
DHEC’s Emma Windham said that eight new wastewater pond aerators have been installed and would be online as soon as correct parts arrived. A rep from Lamar’s water system engineering firm Davis and Brown added that installation of those parts would begin the following day. Price quotes for new effluent pumps (which send treated wastewater back into Lynch’s River) are expected shortly. Filter beds are being cleaned and plans are expected for construction of new beds. Overflow prevention dikes around the stormwater pond have also been replenished.
Windham said tests are planned to locate and repair leaks in the sewer pipe network, especially those areas that allow significant stormwater penetration. That extra water flows into the wastewater treatment facility and presents a burden to the system. Testing will likely take two forms: low-cost smoke testing and, in some areas, cameras closely inspecting compromised pipes.
“I think they’re really getting on track to get the issues resolved,” Windham said.
DHEC’s Buck Graham stressed that while Lamar is on the right path, the town and its contractor need to pick up the pace, since most of these problems were cited as non-compliance issues in November of 2018.
Mayor Darnell Byrd McPherson said town officials have been meeting monthly with representatives from DHEC and Davis and Brown to keep things moving. To help with this, she said Lamar has re-engaged the services of Lathan Consulting to offer guidance and ensure the town maintains its forward momentum.
Graham said that while Lamar is still trying hard to retain its own municipal water and sewer system, upkeep is very costly and some small communities have found themselves unable to stay in the water business. He added that in some cases, these small towns have sold their systems to larger providers, or united with neighboring towns to form their own rural water authority. In the worst case scenarios, the state would place a failing water system into receivership and grant operation powers to another water operator, such as Darlington County Water and Sewer or the City of Florence.
Council also heard from Scott McDaniel of Safebuilt, a commercial building and codes inspection and enforcement business. McDaniel explained that if Lamar should contract their services, the company would conduct any necessary inspections and ensure that projects meet current state and federal building codes. Safebuilt offers varying payment options; if Lamar should contract with them, the town could pay for services by the hour, or let the company collect fees from applicants and share those revenues with the Town of Lamar.
For the past few years, Lamar has relied on the City of Darlington to lend out their building and codes official to conduct needed inspections. Departmental reorganization in Darlington removed that option, and Lamar currently has no building and codes department to handle permit requests.
Mayor McPherson noted that Safebuilt is used by a number of neighboring communities, including the City of Hartsville. Council took McDaniel’s presentation as information and no immediate action was taken on the matter.

Author: Stephan Drew

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