March 23, 2022

Petition Calls for Safer Drinking Water in Rural and Underserved Communities

Concerned citizens and community organizations filed a Petition for Rule-Making which asks the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to close significant gaps in state water regulations that have exposed residents from Denmark, Darlington, Summerton and other underserved communities across South Carolina to unsafe drinking water. 

The Petition was filed on Tuesday by Denmark Cares, Denmark Citizens for Safe Water, Darlington County resident Kim Weatherford, Waccamaw Indian People vice chief Cheryl M. Cail, Sumter resident Lakisha Wade, Summerton resident Ken Harvin, the Gullah Geechee Chamber of Commerce and South Carolina Interfaith Power & Light.

“In our Gullah Geechee community, we understand ‘water is life.’ And it is incumbent upon us to ensure clean water for the health and safety of all communities,” said Marilyn Hemingway, the CEO & President of the Gullah Geechee Chamber of Commerce. “Through our support of this Petition, we call on DHEC to close the gap in state water regulations that have exposed children and families to unsafe water conditions. It is never too late to improve drinking water for families in underserved, historically excluded communities.”  

The South Carolina Environmental Law Project, a nonprofit public interest law firm, filed the Petition on behalf of the parties.  

“The Petitioners hope that DHEC will seize this opportunity to improve drinking water in rural areas and throughout the State. South Carolinians should be provided with drinking water that is consistently clean no matter where they live and granting this Petition will move us closer to that goal,” said SCELP staff attorney Ben Cunningham. 

Among the requests in the Petition are the following:

  • Lead and Copper Improvements. DHEC should promptly and fully implement the EPA’s new Lead and Copper Rule to decrease the amount of lead and copper in drinking water and protect residents from exposure to the harmful chemicals. Since 2015, at least 48 small water systems in the state have exceeded the action level for lead in drinking water, including the communities of Belton, Bowman, Ehrhardt, Honea Path and Edgemoor.  
  • FIFRA Registration for Water Treatment Chemicals. DHEC should close the gap in its regulations that allowed drinking water in Denmark to be treated with Halosan, which was not properly registered under Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), as required by the EPA.  
  • Water Storage Tank Inspections. DHEC should require regular inspection of the interior of water storage tanks and to mandate cleaning when sludge or contaminants are found to avoid the disturbing situation that befell residents of Summerton, where sludge collected in a large water storage tank and was not cleaned at least 12 years. 
  • Industrial Sludge Pollutant and Monitoring Update. DHEC should limit the pathways for PFAS chemicals to endanger human health and contaminate drinking water and crops to avoid future instances like in Darlington County, where these “forever chemicals” tainted groundwater wells near fertilized fields. 

Petitioner Kim Weatherford of Darlington County said she hopes that DHEC will use the information in this Petition to make desperately needed changes to current regulations so every South Carolinian can have safe, clean water regardless of where they live.  

“In my family’s experience, finding out that we built our home and have been drinking PFAS-contaminated water for over 11 years has been a nightmare. I believe my family has already begun to deal with ongoing health issues from these chemicals that we were unknowingly exposed to from sludge that was manufactured at the Galey and Lord textile plant and used as fertilizer at a neighboring farm. It is a constant source of worry wondering what the future holds for our family,” Weatherford said. 

“Sadly, I know we are just one of many families dealing with these issues. I implore DHEC to make the necessary changes to protect the health and well-being of every citizen in our great state as well as our environment,” she added.  

Petitioner Ken Harvin of Summerton concluded, “Clean drinking water is a basic need and our leaders should ensure every citizen has access regardless of their zip code.”  


Ben Cunningham, Esquire

South Carolina Environmental Law Project, (843) 527-0078


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The South Carolina Environmental Law Project is a nonprofit public interest law firm. We use our legal expertise to protect land, water and communities across South Carolina.

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Rural Drinking Water - Petition for Rule-making

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