Lightning strike, other events lead to DHEC fining city of Barnwell

First Byline: 
Sarita Chourey - Morris News Service

State regulators have fined the city of Barnwell $700 for malfunctions at its wastewater treatment facility and ordered the city to make improvements.

Specifically, the S.C. Department of Environmental Control found the site had discharged too much fecal coliform, exceeding the daily maximum. The fine was for the discharge on three days in June 2013, July 2013 and January 2014.

The environmental agency said the city had violated the Pollution Control Act and Water Pollution Control Permits Regulation.

"This had nothing to do with the city's drinking water and at no time were Barnwell citizens at risk," said city administrator John Zawacki on Wednesday.

"The problem was caused by a lightning strike that knocked out a metering pump, the second event was a several sand particles that plugged metering line, and the last one a motor on a clarifier had burned out," he said.

Zawacki said repairs were made and backup systems installed to ensure it wouldn't happen again.

Elsewhere in the county, regulators issued another, much larger civil penalty for an illegal burning activity.

In June, a private resident with property on Highway 278 in Barnwell was fined $1,200 for violating state pollution control regulations by burning materials on his land.

Both this fine and the city of Barnwell's fine were contained in DHEC board materials for the meeting to take place Aug. 7. And both represent very small offenses compared to other penalties the state has levied in recent months.

For instance, International Paper Company, an integrated Kraft pulp, bleached fine paper, and market pulp facility located in Georgetown, was most recently fined $20,000 for air pollution violations. Specifically, said DHEC in its August board materials, the company failed to limit the emission of particulate matter.

Agency documents show previous orders against International Paper Compnay list amounts for $115,000 and $77,000.

Sarita Chourey is the Columbia bureau reporter for Morris News Service, part of The People-Sentinel's parent company Morris Communications.