Flood surprises SC

At least 140 homes were damaged in Greenville County, South Carolina.

BY SUSAN KIM | GREENVILLE, S.C. | August 1, 2004

In a flood that crept quietly into the news, at least 140 homes were damaged in Greenville County, S.C., last week, and a potential technological disaster lurks as well.

And the cleanup is happening as a tropical storm is on track to hit the coastal areas of the state.

Homes and infrastructure were damaged, and local officials reported many residents had no insurance.

At least one county council member - Mark Kingsbury - indicated he wanted to work with local churches to establish a relief fund. "There are people whose lives are just decimated," he said.

Damage hit the Cherrydale area hard. Damage assessments were continuing Sunday. In a public statement, Emergency Operations Director Scott Wendelken said damage would meet the Small Business Administration threshold to provide low-interest loans for businesses and homeowners.

The flood also carried away some 750-gallon plastic tanks from a former Cone Mills plant that was already being treated because the groundwater is contaminated with hexavalent chromium, a cancer-causing chemical.

According to reports from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, cleanup officials weren't sure what was in the tanks - or where they ended up. Several chemical drums also washed away.

If people find the drums on their property, they should not investigate them but should call the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, and officials will retrieve the drums, said Keith Lindler in a public statement. Lindler has been directing the toxic site cleanup since before the flood hit.

Lindler and other environmental officials said they don't think floodwaters spread the site's already-existing contamination any further, arguing that floodwaters affected only the surface water and not the groundwater beneath.

The Reedy River rose to near-record levels Thursday. The National Weather Service reported that the river rose to 19.2 feet, the highest level recorded since 1908, when the river rose to 21 feet.

Duke Power shut down a substation when it flooded. Some 5,800 homes - along with the local hospital and local businesses - lost power for 27 hours.

The situation regarding power outages could have been much worse if floodwater had inundated live transformers, according to reports from Duke Power.

County officials are estimating some $5.8 million damage was done to county infrastructure - roads, bridges and public buildings.

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