South Carolina

Denmark’s water woes spark charity drive at Columbia ballpark

Residents join in on lawsuit against town concerning Denmark water

Lawyer Bakari Sellers addressed residents of Denmark and invited them to take part in a class action lawsuit concerning the city's drinking water.
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Lawyer Bakari Sellers addressed residents of Denmark and invited them to take part in a class action lawsuit concerning the city's drinking water.

From a building next to Columbia’s minor league ballpark off Bull Street, charity workers are collecting bottled water for a tiny S.C. town that is in an uproar over the quality of its drinking water.

The group collecting the water, Hometown Projects SC, became involved after learning late last year about an array of drinking water complaints in Denmark. The bottled water drive, going on all week at Segra Park, shows concerns about Denmark are spreading across South Carolina, organizers said Monday.

By midday Monday, 7,000 bottles of water had been stacked in an empty room in a building at Segra Park, formerly Spirit Communications Park.

People like Leah Thomas said they are glad to help.

“I’m very aware of the situation they have going on down there in Denmark,’’ said Thomas, who dropped off three cases of water Monday. “If I was in their situation, I would want someone to reach out. It shouldn’t be just the people right around Denmark. The support should be broader.’’

Concerns in Denmark, a town of about 3,500 located an hour’s drive south of Columbia, center on discolored, smelly water, as well as the city’s decision to inject a slime-killing chemical — not federally approved — into the city’s water for 10 years without the public’s knowledge. Denmark also failed a 2018 state inspection of its drinking water system.

Lawsuits have been filed against the city this year over the quality of its drinking water.

City officials and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control say improvements have been made and Denmark’s water is safe despite the concerns. The slime killer, Halosan, is no longer being used by the town after federal officials raised concerns last summer, officials say.

Halosan, manufactured in South Carolina, was not approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for use in a drinking-water system. The ingredients in Halosan can cause skin and eye irritation if the product is not administered properly. At one point several years ago, town water operators were unfamiliar with the system being used to inject the chemical into the water, The State reported last year.

Jenni Byrne and Cedric Flemming, who are coordinating the bottled water drive in Columbia, said they plan to deliver the water to Denmark early next month.

“We want to provide them clean drinking water until they are able to get their water fixed,’’ Byrne said.

What to help?

Anyone interested in dropping off bottled water for Denmark can do so at Segra Park from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday. For information, contact Hometown Projects SC at contact@htpsc.org.

Sammy Fretwell has written about the environment for more than 20 years. Among the matters he covers are climate change, wildlife issues, nuclear policy, pollution, land protection, coastal development, energy and state environmental policy. Fretwell, who grew up in Anderson County, is a University of South Carolina graduate. Reach him at 803 771 8537.
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