Neighbors say thousands of sewage water overflowed, leaving potential hazards

Homeowners in the Sweetbriar subdivision in Summerville say they noticed thousands of gallons of sewage water escaping from nearby septic tanks.
Published: May. 26, 2023 at 4:47 PM EDT|Updated: May. 26, 2023 at 11:05 PM EDT
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SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCSC) - Homeowners in the Sweetbriar subdivision in Summerville say they noticed thousands of gallons of sewage water escaping from nearby septic tanks.

Neighbors say sewage was flowing into Rumphs Hill Creek for nearly 36 hours before the sewage water stopped flowing from the septic tanks last night around midnight according to nearby homeowners.

Although the flow is finished, neighbors are concerned about the possible lasting impacts.

Living in the neighborhood for over 10 years, Michael Edwards says this is the first time anything like this has happened.

“The biggest concern was it getting in my well water. It was luckily going away from the well towards the creek, but it went on for about 36 hours,” Edward says.

Homeowners say they are mainly concerned about water flowing into the Ashley River, which connects to the nearby creek.

Concerns also included the contaminants seeping into the ground near homes, and sewage affecting the groundwater, which 80-percent of households in the area use.

“The third concern is property damage because there was thousands of gallons coming out of the sewage system, leaving sewage, particularly metal all over the place in the backyard,” Sweetbriar Homeowner, Andreas Krause, says. “How is this going to be cleaned up? What needs to be done in order to get this safe?”

The sewage water began overflowing late Wednesday night, promoting neighbors to call Dorchester County Water and Sewage Department.

In South Carolina over the last 10 years, an average of almost 600 overflows are reported each year, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Untreated sewage from overflows can contaminate water, causing serious water quality problems. Swage can also create property damage and threaten public health, according to DHEC.

“The property is used by the kids and dogs; I see this as a hazard to health at least,” Krause says.

The neighbors say Dorchester County worked all day Thursday to get the sewage water under control, staying late into the night.

“They [Dorchester County] were out here working on it, and they were very responsive,” Edwards says. “It took a while to get it fixed, but they were very responsive communication was spot on.”

Although some nearby homeowners were happy with the quick response time, Krause is worried about the potential lasting impacts on his property and the nearby creek.

“We think thorough cleanup is really important, and especially when the rain and storm system will come through this weekend; it will wash up more contaminants and flush even more into the creek, and the river eventually,” he says.

Dorchester County Public Information Officer, Michelle Mills, released the following statement in response to the incident:

On May 24th at 7:00pm, Dorchester County Water and Sewer received a call for service regarding a sewer main that had backed up. Crews immediately responded to investigate the cause of the overflow. The blockage was cleared, but staff identified a 3-inch severed water main under the intersection of Jennings and Regent Street that was causing the issue. This line is a Dorchester County Water Authority line (not Dorchester County Government). Dorchester County Government Water and Sewer assisted Dorchester County Water Authority and repaired the line. The cause of the sewer overflow is attributed to excessive flow due to the water line break.

DHEC responded to the situation saying:

Dorchester County Water and Sewer had properly notified us, as required, of the sewage leak.

Dorchester County Water and Sewer is addressing the issue and making repairs; please contact the utility for the most current status update on its progress.