Anderson Water Should Improve as System Flushing Continues

Three years ago, Anderson County South Carolina won an award for having the best drinking water in the state.

It only took two years of record weather conditions to wash memories of those tall glasses of fresh, sweet-tasting water right out of our clean glasses. 

The drought of 2012 left Hartwell Lake at record low levels. Sites where docks once floated were suddenly lush, green vegetation-covered mud. Those who owned lake property essentially watched their lawns shrivel as their lake front bloomed with plant life.  

By the time the rainfall came, and it came in a nine-month torrent from Nov. 2012-July 2013 that more than made up for the year of drought, the lake filled far behind full stages, even reaching levels above even that which had been seen when the lake was originally filled in the 1960s. 

“What resulted is the result of a confluence of odd events,” said Scott Willett, executive director of the Anderson Regional Joint Water System. “After the drought, the lake was down 10-12 feet, almost all the backchannels were dry, and where they were dry grass, other other organic material were allowed to grow.” 

Added to this, throughout the winter, very little, if any lake management - other than emergency letting of water from the overfull lakes - was needed. All the lakes up and down stream were full, so they stayed full, setting the stage of trouble. 

When Spring 2014 rolled around, the dogwoods were not the only thing that bloomed. In coves all around Hartwell Lake, aquarium-like growths began to flourish in three feet of water, which was just enough to allow sunlight to reach the bottom. Nourished by runoff of fertilizer, grass clippings and other organic manner which had piled up and ended up in the lake during the early rained-out attempts to plant lawns and gardens.  

The growth of this organic material produced the unpleasant odor and taste in Anderson County first reported back in early May. The water contained exceptionally high levels of Geosmin and Methyl-Isoborneol (MIB), both naturally occurring compounds which are to blame for the water problems Anderson County has experienced for the past few months. These materials, the result of what is categorized as blue-green algae, seep into the water since they are not caught by filters, much like the flavor or coffee or tea seeps into water even though the tea leaves and/or grounds do not. But tests show they do not contain bacteria or other harmful substances. 

Willett said the joint water system continues to do hourly testing of the water daily, and that there are no safety concerns from the current water in the system. 

“Our water is safe, meeting all primary drinking water standards.” Willett said. “But we understand that taste, odor, color are the things we expect as a community, and we are going to fix that. We like having the best drinking water in South Carolina, providing high quality at low costs. That is our goal.  We all live and work here in Anderson and we all want good water.” 

The carbon filtration system, which was implemented the day of the intake pipe failure in late June, is already showing signs of progress. Willett said all the water at Anderson’ treatment facility is void of the unpleasant taste and odor. It is continuing to deliver this water throughout the system, while providing adequate filtration, will be the longest stage in the return of drinking water void of the earthy taste and smells.

Willett said the amount of material in the water should have now peaked and is now showing a rapid decline the the system’s drinking water. In May, the presence of geosim and MIB was staggering, coming in at 2,100 parts per trillion. Most consumers can begin to smell the material in the water at 10 parts per trillion. So reducing the amount by such a large amount is taking time. He said progress is being made by treating one area at a time, but added there is no way to give and exact time when the entire system will be 100 percent below the detectable levels. 

“I hope we are going to be a lot more effect as the water from the plant propagates through the systems,” Willett said. “Systems are flushing regularly in a lot of areas and having only good water going into the system will eventually fix it.”

Willett said the rural systems should find it easier to flush systems, including holding tanks along the way, because they are largely linear systems with houses and businesses tapped on a line. The city system is networked, and due to lack of early planning and long-range patchwork of pipe systems by Duke Energy when the owned the system, and thus will take longer to flush and replace the current lines filled with the earthy water.

This raises another issue about the future of water quality in Anderson: aging infrastructure. Replacing the water infrastructure will require not only a long-range plan, but a lot of money that so far no one has been willing to allocate.

Anderson is an exceptionally large system to be served by a single water treatment plant, Willett said. When it was built 50-plus years ago, it was serving far fewer homes and businesses, and many residents still had their own wells. He said current plans involve the creation of two virtual water plants from a single plant with the goal of avoid future problems which have recently plagued the current system. This would mean a single intake failure would no longer be able to take the entire system down, since backup values are being installed to prevent the repeats of such an event. 

In the meantime, if you continue to have taste and odor issues with your water, first ask your neighbors if they are having similar issues. If not, then run a shower to flush the line to your house and see if that helps the problem. If your neighbor(s) are also having water issues, contact your water system to let them know organic materials are still a problem in your area and that the lines need to be flushed. 

It will take time for the water system to recover from what at least to this point has been a once in a generation problem. Until then, monitor the water at your house or business and keep the lines of communication open with your local water provider is the best tool for follow up. 

"No one likes what we have had to go through here," Willett said. "But we're working to make progress."


South Carolina Kids Among Nation's Poorest

South Carolina ranked 45th in the nation in child well-being for the second year in a row as many Palmetto State children continue to face high poverty rates and to struggle in reading and math.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation released its annual Kids Count report Tuesday, ranking each state’s child well-being in four areas: economic well-being, education, health and family, and community. The report draws on the most recent national, state and local child welfare statistics available.

Arizona, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico and Mississippi trailed South Carolina, ranking 46th through 50th, respectively. Again, the country’s southern-most states, from coast to coast, were ranked the lowest in the nation.

Massachusetts, Vermont, Iowa, New Hampshire and Minnesota ranked first through fifth, respectively, as best for overall child well-being.

“Most alarming are the education and poverty measures,” Children’s Trust chief executive officer Sue Williams said of the South Carolina findings. “With education, families can lift themselves out of poverty and greatly reduce the stressors that can lead to child abuse and neglect.”

In South Carolina, 72 percent of fourth-graders scored below proficient on a national reading test – a slight improvement from 74 percent in 2005. Sixty-nine percent of South Carolina eighth-graders were not proficient in math, slightly better than 70 percent in 2005.

Fifty-seven percent of 3- and 4-year-olds in the state did not attend preschool, up from 55 percent in last year’s Kids Count report.

The report comes as South Carolina educators get ready to comply with a new state law called Read to Succeed, meant to bring a new focus on reading in public schools.

Starting in the 2017-18 school year, third-graders who perform poorly on state literacy tests will repeat that grade so they can receive intensive reading instruction. The new law also paves the way for the expansion of the state’s free 4-year-old kindergarten program.

Read more here: http://www.heraldonline.com/2014/07/21/6160420/study-sc-still-ranked-45th-for.html?sp=/100/104/#storylink=cpy

State Begins first Repair with New Act 98 SCDOT Funds

The first bridge in South Carolina built using a new source of money is open to traffic, after a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday. The bridge is on Jumping Branch Road near Blacksburg.

It’s the first bridge completed under Act 98, which state lawmakers passed last year as a new source of money for state roads and bridges. It uses some of the money from the sales tax on vehicles, which used to go to the General Fund, and some one-time new money in the budget last year. That money was then used to borrow about $1 billion over 10 years.

"It will take awhile to design and deliver all of the projects, but we hope to have between now and the end of this year perhaps 10 more bridges in the Upstate region, but over the next several years we'll deliver almost 80 bridges across the state," says Janet Oakley, secretary of transportation for the SC DOT.

That money will also be used to widen I-85 from four lanes to six, although you won’t see construction begin for a couple of years.

While the new funding will provide about $1 billion over 10 years, the SCDOT says it needs about $1.4 billion every year for 20 years to bring state roads up to “good” condition.


S.C. National Parks Generate $80 Million in 2013

A new report finds that visitors to national parks in South Carolina spent almost $80 million and the parks supported 1,100 jobs last year.

The report by economists with the U.S. Geological Survey found that more than 1.5 million visitors went to National Park Service sites in the state during 2013.

The national park sites in South Carolina include the Congaree National Park south of Columbia and the Fort Sumter and Charles Pinckney national historic sites in the Charleston area.

In the Upstate, sites include the Cowpens National Battlefield, Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, Kings Mountain National Military Park, and Ninety Six National Historic Site.


WYFF: Duke Says Keowee Oil Spill Poses No Threat

A Duke Energy officials said an oil spill in the Keowee River does not pose a threat to the public.

BJ Gatten, spokeswoman for Duke Energy, said the spill happened at Duke's Keowee hydro plant Sunday evening.  When workers noticed the spill, it was stopped and contained by a yellow boom across the water.

The spill happened in the Tail Race area of the Keowee River and can be seen from the bridge over Highway 183 near the Pickens County line.

Gatten said about five gallons of oil spilled from what she described as an apparent equipment failure.

"Keowee hydro is a separate plant.  It’s located here on the property with Oconee nuclear station, but they are two completely separate plants.  Keowee’s job is to produce electricity from water," Gatten said.  "Today, plant personnel are working to understand what happened and to make sure that it doesn’t happen again."


Study: Rising Seas Could Threaten Carolina Coasts

A new analysis of sea level rise concludes that billions of dollars in property and infrastructure is at risk in extreme floods expected along the coast of the Carolinas in coming years.

Climate Central of Princeton, N.J., a nonprofit group of scientists and journalists that surveys and conducts climate change studies, released an analysis of the threat faced in South Carolina on Monday, while its report for North Carolina was released last week. An analysis for Georgia is due next week.

The information is available on an interactive map on the organization’s website, http://bit.ly/1rjkMsv, where visitors can enter their ZIP code and see various flooding scenarios.

The analysis found that the South Carolina coast is likely to see extreme floods of more than 4 feet above high tide within 40 years in a danger zone that includes 54,000 homes and $24 billion in property. North Carolina has $9 billion in property and 61,000 homes less than 4 feet above the high tide line, most of it in the Wilmington area.

Ben Strauss, the lead author of the reports, said the organization two years ago used maps from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to analyze population and housing threatened by flooding in all coastal states.


Christians Flee Iraq Ahead of ISIS Threats

Thousands of Christians are fleeing northern Iraq and communities they have lived in for almost 2,000 years following militant group ISIS' ultimatum last week that they convert to Islam, pay a tax, or be killed for their faith.

"In my opinion this is a very grave situation. No Western leader is moving to stop such a tragedy but they offer only empty words with no actions," Dr. Munir S. Kakish, Chairman Council of Local Evangelical Churches in the Holy Land, told The Christian Post in an email on Sunday. "ISIS must be stopped before it wipes out Christians from other areas."

The Independent noted that ISIS, which has taken control of the city of Mosul and much of the surrounding region, gave Christians until midday on Saturday to comply. The militants have declared the establishment of an "Islamic state" on the territory of Iraq and Syria, where they have also been active.

"We offer them three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract - involving payment of jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword," an ISIS statement was read out at Mosul's mosques, BBC News reported.

A number of Christian leaders and persecution watchdog groups have made rallying calls for the international community to do all it can to help protect Iraq's Christians. Many are reportedly fleeing to the autonomous region of Kurdistan, which for the most part has managed to secure its borders and escape the militants' attacks.

"Christian families are on their way to Dohuk and Irbil," Patriarch Louis Sako told AFP news agency.

"For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians," he said.

The patriarch added that Islamists have been seen branding Christian houses with the letter "N" for "Nassarah," a term used for Christians in the Quran.

Sako estimated that as many as 60,000 Christians lived in Mosul prior to 2003 and the U.S.-led operations against dictator Saddam Hussein. By June 2014, that number had fallen to 35,000, while another 10,000 fled following ISIS' initial attacks.Churches in Mosul have also been attack and ransacked, Chaldean Archbishop Nona told Human Rights Watch.

"Each car carried three gunmen, most of them with masks. They broke open the doors and took some small statues from inside the property and broke them outside. They took control of the premises and placed their black banners on the roof and entrance," Nona said of an attack on his archdiocese compound.

"They told neighbors, 'this is our property, don't touch it'."

Iraq could soon split into three separate regions as a response to the ISIS attacks, a Kurdish government official recently predicted.


Judge Orders S.C. Attorney General to Turn Over Documents

A judge has ordered South Carolina's attorney general to turn over documents to a freelance journalist investigating the fight over the estate of soul singer James Brown.

Sue Summer wants to see the diary of the woman who said she was Brown's wife when he died in 2006, an appraisal of Brown's assets and other records she requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

Circuit Judge Eugene Griffith Jr. ruled against Attorney General Alan Wilson earlier this month. Wilson said he shouldn't be forced to release the records because they are part of different lawsuits over Brown's estate.

Wilson is asking the judge to reconsider his ruling. Summer says she wants to make sure Brown's dying wish to give scholarships to poor children is followed.


Update: Krispy Kreme Official Launch Date Aug. 21

Due to some last minute fine-tuning, Krispy Kreme now says it will officially turn on their "Hot Doughnuts Now" lights Aug. 21.

Plans are already being made by at least one group to camp out at Besto next door to get the first hot doughnuts when the doors open.

The doughnut shop will be locaed on North Main Street just passed Besto. A spokesperson for Krispy Kreme said hours for the Anderson location will be announcd before the grand opening.

Krispy Kreme's previous store in Anderson, which was on East River Street, closed in the early 1970s.


Automotive News: S.C. North America's Tire Capital

South Carolina is cementing its reputation as North America's tire capital.

Five tire plants have opened or are in the works in that state, as suppliers race to alleviate a tire shortage in North America's booming automotive market.

South Carolina became the nation's leading tire producer in the fourth quarter last year with estimated daily output of 89,000 tires, edging Oklahoma's 88,000 units, according to Tire Business, a sibling publication of Automotive News.

Ohio, home of historic tire center Akron, is No. 12 on the list at 23,900 tires per day.

The fresh wave of tire makers' investments in South Carolina:

•  In June, the Giti Tire Group of Singapore announced plans to build a $560 million plant in Chester County to make tires for original equipment and the aftermarket.

• In May, Trelleborg Wheel Systems disclosed plans to spend $50 million on an operation in Spartanburg County to produce tires for farm equipment.

• In January, Continental Tire opened a $500 million tire plant in Sumter to produce passenger vehicle tires for original equipment and the aftermarket.

• In December, Michelin dedicated a plant in Anderson County that will produce tires for earth-moving equipment. That project, along with an expansion of its Lexington tire factory, cost $750 million.

•  Bridgestone spent $1.2 billion to expand its passenger tire plant in Aiken and construct a factory to produce tires for mining vehicles.

The Giti project is the company's first North American tire plant. Although Giti is headquartered in Singapore, seven of its tire plants are in China and an eighth is in Indonesia. Tire Business ranks Giti as the world's 11th-largest tire maker.


Anderson Jobless Rate Increase "Seasonal Adjustment"

Anderson County’s unemployment rate jumped by more than half a percent in June, rising from 4.6 to 5.3 percent. Meanwhile, the overall jobless rate in South Carolina was unchanged from May, holding at 5.3 percent when adjusted, but rose to 5.7 percent statewide unadjusted. 

Anderson’ rate rose, as did that of every other county in the state except York and Aiken (Horry was unchanged), due to the greater demand in labor due to schools being out for the summer, according to Anderson County Government Affairs Liaison Steve Newton.

“This happens every year at this time because more people - students, 9-month wage employees at schools, etc. - are seeking work during the summertime,” Newton said.  He said from May to June of last year, for example, the labor force increased by 751 persons and unemployment rate went from 6.9 to 7.6 for the very same reason.  

“This year, the labor force increased by 869 from May to June, causing the unemployment rate to go from 4.6 to 5.3 even though we added 246 jobs during the month,” Newton said. “Nonetheless, Anderson County's unemployment rate is the 8th lowest in the state.”

Newton added that while the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for S.C. remained unchanged at 5.3 percent, the non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the state was 5.7 percent.


S.C. Exploring Off-Shore Wind Farms

In a matter of years, wind mills may rise out of the ocean in the horizon along South Carolina's Grand Strand, while the wind's power may generate a new industry hundreds of miles from the coastal winds.

Experts have identified the best locations for offshore wind power, and maps show the wind is the strongest off the coast of Myrtle Beach. The likeliest place to locate wind mills may lie in the distant sightlines miles off the popular beach.

While the wind mills may not interfere with beachgoers' ocean views, the structures may be visible in the horizon as they rise from the ocean floor about 10 miles off the coast, said Marc Johnson, president and CEO of the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce.

"You might be able to figure out on a clear day that it's out there," Johnson said, "but it's not the kind of thing that you're going to open your window up and say 'Gosh, it's right there.'"

Johnson said the reaction to the idea of offshore wind mills along the coast has been positive. Many people like the idea as long as they don't have to look at it, he said.

If South Carolina chooses to pursue wind power – a move being studied now – the coastal waters would likely be the best resource, experts say.

The state's wind speed onshore is tepid at times and unreliable at best.

South Carolina just doesn't have a lot of consistent wind velocity on land low to the ground where it can be captured by the spinning three-pronged giant windmills that have popped up across the nation's Midwest and Plains states, experts say.

So the state's best wind potential lies just offshore, along the Grand Strand, and much of South Carolina's research and development muscle is focused on making renewable wind energy a reality in the horizon off Myrtle Beach and elsewhere along the Atlantic Coast.

South Carolina has established a task force to study offshore wind energy, and the Legislature passed a resolution recently to recognize the state's offshore wind resource.

Full Story Here


The State: S.C. High Court Says Autopsy Reports not Public

The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that autopsy reports are not public records, dealing another blow to traditional practices under the state's Freedom of Information law.

The justices ruled 4-1 that autopsies are medical records and fall under privacy provisions of the open records law. The ruling came just four weeks after the justices ruled that public meetings don't have to have a list of topics to be discussed, and if they do have an agenda, it can be changed in the middle of the meeting.

The justices ruled in a lawsuit against the Sumter County Coroner Harvin Bullock by The Sumter Item. The newspaper sued because the coroner refused to release the autopsy report of 25-year-old Aaron Jacobs, who was shot by police in 2010.

Police initially said Jacobs fired on officers, but the autopsy report, obtained from a different source by the newspaper, said there was no gunshot residue on Jacobs' hands and he was shot in the back. 

Associate Justice Costa Pleicones dissented, suggesting a coroner could black out medical information that was not relevant to the case. Pleicones said autopsy reports are not one of the things specifically excluded from being released under the open records law.

The newspaper was disappointed with the ruling, pointing out the public might never have learned what really happened in the police shooting without the autopsy report. It also said the justices' assertion that autopsy reports are medical records makes no sense.

"There has never been an autopsy that has ever been performed that improved someone's health," said Braden Bunch, senior news editor for The Sumter Item. 

In the majority opinion, Associate Justice Kaye Hearn wrote that while an autopsy report contains relevant information on how someone died in an examination paid for by taxpayers and supervised by an elected official, it also contains all of the dead person's medical history, which is not relevant to the person's death.

The ruling leaves little guidance on what, if anything, coroners release to the public about suspicious deaths in their counties.