News Feature | February 1, 2023

Century-Old Dam In South Carolina Is Now Leaking Toxic Sewage

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga


After more than a century of use, a major public asset in South Carolina is now in danger of collapse. And it’s the only thing holding back severe source water contamination.

“Lake Greenwood provides clean drinking water to tens of thousands of people,” WYFF reported. “But just over an hour upstream in Greenville County, the 130-year-old Conestee Dam is crumbling and cracking day by day, according to experts, holding back millions of tons of chemicals and raw sewage.”

Built in 1892, the dam was erected long before environmental regulations were established to protect source water, and toxic waste and sewage was routinely dumped upstream from the area’s critical drinking water source. While the infrastructure problems with the aged dam have been apparent for years, the leaking has grown to the point that local officials have had no choice but to take action.

“After state lawmakers set aside $3 million in 2022 to address Conestee Dam, DHEC [the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control] recommended building a new dam about 10 feet in front of the old one,” according to WYFF. “It should take three years to build.”

In the meantime, local and state officials will need to budget an additional $47.5 million. For those consumers who would be most impacted by any contamination of Lake Greenwood, it’s a fundraising effort that can’t be left to chance.

“Following recent reporting on the efforts of local and state lawmakers to work with state Department of Health and Environmental Control staff to replace the Conestee Dam, a Facebook group has formed to organize a letter campaign urging prompt action on the dam,” per the Index Journal. “Ralph Cushing formed the ‘Save Lake Greenwood’ group on Facebook … Cushing has been urging the nearly 1,000 members of Save Lake Greenwood to write letters to local legislators and Gov. Henry McMaster’s office calling for swift funding of the new dam.”

To read more about how public water systems maintain their aging infrastructure, visit Water Online’s Asset Management Solutions Center.