Criminal Defense Attorney inConestee, SC

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CDH Law Firm: Giving Hope to
Criminal Defense Clients in
Conestee, SC

Getting charged with a crime in Conestee can be a traumatic experience. Even "petty" crimes can cause an individual's life to fall apart professionally and personally. Spending time in jail is bad enough, but the ramifications of a criminal record run deep, resulting in loss of employment, loss of friends, and even family. For many people, having a zealous criminal defense attorney in Conestee, SC, to defend their rights is the only shot they have of living a normal life.

That's why, if you have been charged with a crime, you need the help of a veteran criminal defense lawyer early in the legal process. That's where CDH Law Firm comes in to give you or your loved one hope when you need it the most.

Our criminal defense law firm was founded to help people just like you - hardworking men and women who are looking at diminished employment opportunities and a possible lifetime of embarrassment. But with our team of experts fighting by your side, you have a much better chance of maintaining your freedom and living a normal, productive life. When it comes to criminal law in Conestee, we've seen it all. With decades of combined experience, there is no case too complicated or severe for us to handle, from common DUI charges to complicated cases involving juvenile crimes. Unlike some of our competition, we prioritize personalized service and cutting-edge criminal defense strategies to effectively represent our clients.

Criminal Defense Attorney Conestee, SC

Clients rank CHSA Law, LLC as the top choice for Conestee criminal defense because we provide:

  • One-on-One Counsel
  • Education on the Conestee Legal Process and Its Risks
  • Ardent, Effective Representation
  • Commitment to Our Clients and Defending Their Rights
  • Prompt Inquiry Response
  • Robust Experience with Criminal Law Cases in Conestee
  • Innovative Defense Strategies
  • Effective, Thorough Research and Investigation

Choosing the right criminal defense lawyer in Conestee can mean the difference between conviction and acquittal. Our firm has represented thousands of clients in the Lowcountry, and we're ready to defend you too. Some of our specialties include:

 Law Firm Conestee, SC
The-Cobb-Dill-Hammett-Difference

DUI Cases
in Conestee, SC

DUI penalties in Conestee can be very harsh. Many first-time DUI offenders must endure a lifelong criminal record, license suspension, and the possibility of spending time in jail. Officers and judges take DUI very seriously, with 30% of traffic fatalities in South Carolina involving impaired drivers, according to NHTSA. Criminal convictions can have lasting impacts on your life, which is why CDH Law Firm works so hard to get these charges dismissed or negotiated down. In some cases, we help clients avoid jail time altogether.

 Criminal Defense Lawyer Conestee, SC
When you hire our DUI defense firm, our team will always work towards your best interests and will go above and beyond to achieve the best outcome in your case. Depending on the circumstances of your DUI charges, we will investigate whether:
  • Your DUI stop was legal
  • You were administered a field sobriety test correctly
  • The breathalyzer used was calibrated correctly and properly maintained
  • Urine and blood tests were administered and collected properly

The bottom line? Our criminal law defense attorneys will do everything possible to keep you out of jail with a clean permanent record. It all starts with a free consultation, where we will take time to explain the DUI process. We'll also discuss your defense options and speak at length about the differences between going to trial and accepting a plea bargain.

DUI Penalties in Conestee, SC

The consequences of a DUI in Conestee depend on a number of factors, including your blood alcohol level and how many DUIs you have received in the last 10 years. If you're convicted, the DUI charge will remain on your criminal history and can be seen by anyone who runs a background check on you. Sometimes, a judge will require you to enter alcohol treatment or install an interlock device on your automobile.

If you're on the fence about hiring a criminal defense lawyer in Conestee, SC, consider the following DUI consequences:

Criminal Defense Attorney Conestee, SC

First Offense

Offense

48 hours to 90 days

in jail

with fines ranging from

$400 to $1,000

Second Offense

Offense

Five days to three years

in jail

with fines ranging from

$2,100 to $6,500

Third Offense

Offense

60 days to five years

in jail

with fines ranging from

$3,800 to $10,000

Additional consequences can include:

1

Alcohol or Drug Treatment

When convicted of DUI in South Carolina, most offenders must join the Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program. This program mandates that offenders complete a drug and alcohol assessment and follow the recommended treatment options.

 Law Firm Conestee, SC

2

Community Service

Some first-time DUI offenders in Conestee may choose to complete community service in lieu of jail time. Community service hours are usually equal to the length of jail time an offender would be required to serve.

 Criminal Defense Lawyer Conestee, SC

Sanctions to Your Driver's License

Typically, when a person is convicted of driving under the influence in Conestee, their driver's license is restricted or suspended. The length of restriction or suspension depends on how many prior DUI convictions an individual has.

First DUI Offense

First-time DUI offenders must endure a six-month license suspension. Drivers convicted with a blood-alcohol level of .15% or more do not qualify for a provisional license. However, sometimes they may still drive using an ignition interlock device.

Second DUI Offense

Offenders convicted of a second DUI charge must use an ignition interlock device (IID) for two years.

Third DUI Offense

Offenders convicted of a third DUI charge must use an ignition interlock device (IID) for three years. That term increases to four years if the driver is convicted of three DUIs in five years.

Immobilized Vehicle

For offenders with two or more convictions, the judge will immobilize their vehicle if it is not equipped with an IID. When a judge immobilizes a vehicle, the owner must turn over their registration and license plate. Clearly, the consequences of receiving a DUI in Conestee can be life-changing, and not in a good way. The good news is that with CDH Law Firm, you have a real chance at beating your charges and avoiding serious fines and jail time. Every case is different, which is why it's so important that you call our office as soon as possible if you are charged with a DUI.

Traffic Violation Cases

Most drivers brush off traffic law violations as minor offenses, but the fact of the matter is they are criminal matters to be taken seriously. Despite popular opinion, Traffic Violation cases in Conestee can carry significant consequences like fines and even incarceration. If you or someone you love has been convicted of several traffic offenses, your license could be suspended, restricting your ability to work and feed your family.

Every driver should take Traffic Violations seriously. If you're charged with a traffic crime, it's time to protect yourself and your family with a trusted criminal defense lawyer in Conestee, SC. Cobb Dill Hammett, LLC is ready to provide the legal guidance and advice you need to beat your traffic charges. We'll research the merits of your case, explain what charges you're facing, discuss your defense options, and strategize an effective defense on your behalf.

Common Conestee
Traffic Violations That CDH Law
Firm Fights

There are dozens and dozens of traffic laws in Conestee, all of which affect drivers in some way. Our Conestee defense attorneys fight a full range of violations, including but not limited to the following:

Criminal Defense Attorney Conestee, SC
  • Driving Under Suspension: If you drive while your license is suspended, revoked, or canceled, you could be looking at 30 days in jail and fines up to $300.
  • Driving Under the Influence: Operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated on drugs or alcohol is illegal and often results in jail time and fines.
  • Reckless Driving: You could be ordered to pay up to $200 in fines or jailed for up to 30 days if you drive with wanton disregard for the safety of other people.
  • Racing: You can be cited and fined if you aid or participate in street racing.
  • Hit and Run: When you leave the scene of an accident that involved injury to another party, you can be arrested. This serious charge can lead to up to one year in jail and fines of up to $5,000 for first-time offenders.
  • Disregard Traffic Signals: Drivers must obey all traffic signals and control devices, less they be ticketed and sometimes fined.

As seasoned traffic violation lawyers, we know how frustrating it can be to get charged with a Traffic Violation. While some traffic charges can be minor, others are severe and can affect your life for years to come. Don't leave your fate up to chance call CDH Law Firm today for the highest-quality Traffic Violation representation in Conestee.

Juvenile Crime Cases in
Conestee, SC

At Cobb Dill Hammett, LLC, we understand that children are still growing and learning about the world around them. As such, they may make mistakes that get them into trouble with the law. Children and teens who are arrested in Conestee can face much different futures than other children their age. Some face intensive probation, while others are made to spend time in jail.

This happens most often when a child's parents fail to retain legal counsel for their son or daughter. Cases referred to the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice often move quicker than adult cases, so finding a good lawyer is of utmost importance. With that said, a compassionate criminal defense attorney in Conestee, SC, can educate you and your child about their alleged charges. To help prevent your child from going to a detention center, we will devise a strategy to achieve favorable results in their case.

 Law Firm Conestee, SC
 Criminal Defense Lawyer Conestee, SC

Juvenile Detention Hearings

Unlike adults, juveniles don't have a constitutional right to a bond hearing. Instead, once your child is taken into custody a Detention Hearing is conducted within 48 hours. This hearing is similar to a combination of a Bond Hearing and a Preliminary Hearing. Unfortunately, there is little time to prepare for these hearings, which is why you must move quickly and call CDH law firm as soon as possible.

Our team gathers police reports, petitions, interviews your child at the DJJ, speaks with you about the case and talks to the prosecutor to discover if they have plans for detention. In most cases, we strive to avoid detention and seek alternatives like divisionary programs or treatment facilities. This strategy better addresses your child's issues and keeps them out of the juvenile legal system in Conestee. If your child is charged with a crime, and South Carolina decides to prosecute, your child will appear before a family court judge, who will find them delinquent or not delinquent. There are no juries in juvenile cases in South Carolina, which is why it's crucial to have a lawyer present to defend your child if they go in front of a judge.

Common penalties for juveniles charged with crimes in Conestee include:

Criminal Defense Attorney Conestee, SC
  • Probation: Children charged with probation are released to their parents or guardians. Depending on their charges, they must abide by certain stipulations while at home and may be subject to random drug screenings. Violation of probation often results in jail time.
  • 90 Days in Juvenile Detention Center: When probation is not a viable option, prosecutors may push for 90 days of jail time in a juvenile detention facility.
  • Juvenile Detention: Children who commit very serious crimes can be sent to a juvenile detention center for a long time. These sentences can last up to the child's 21st birthday.
  • School Expulsion: When a child is convicted of a crime, their school is notified of the offense. Sometimes, the administration may decide to expel the child from school for the misdemeanors or felonies they commit.

We Fight to Protect
Your Rights So You Can
Provide for Your Family

Whether you are facing a DUI charge or a serious traffic violation, CDH Law Firm is here to fight for your rights so you can continue living life. The future might seem bleak, but our criminal defense lawyers in Conestee, SC, have the tools, experience, and strategy to win your case, as we have with so many others. Don't lose hope call our office today and maintain your freedom tomorrow.

Ask us anything

Call Now 843-936-6680 PH

Latest News in Conestee, SC

Replacement for crumbling 130-year-old dam holding back toxic waste fully funded

GREENVILLE, S.C. —This week, South Carolina state lawmakers allocated funding to replace a more than a century-old Greenville County dam that officials have called a ticking time bomb.South Carolina will allocate $36 million to replace the Conestee Dam, a 130-year-old dam that's cracking. If it bursts, it will impact hundreds of thousands of lives and will cost $2 billion to clean up."We are appreciative of the funding from the legislature. It's not the entire amount that we requested, but we ...

GREENVILLE, S.C. —

This week, South Carolina state lawmakers allocated funding to replace a more than a century-old Greenville County dam that officials have called a ticking time bomb.

South Carolina will allocate $36 million to replace the Conestee Dam, a 130-year-old dam that's cracking. If it bursts, it will impact hundreds of thousands of lives and will cost $2 billion to clean up.

"We are appreciative of the funding from the legislature. It's not the entire amount that we requested, but we believe with that funding of 36 million plus the commitments we have from local stakeholders, we should be in good shape," said Kelly Lowry, the president of the Lake Conestee Dam Restoration Fund.

Built in the late 1800s, Lowry said the Conestee Dam was only meant to last 50 years. DHEC studies show it's holding back tons of toxic sludge dumped into the Reedy River decades ago by mills and businesses. Some of those chemicals have been proven to cause cancer. If the dam bursts, the chemicals would flow into Lake Greenwood, Greenwood County and Laurens Counties' main drinking water source.

"You know, had the dam burst and all that came downstream, it could have gone all the way to Lake Murray, and we were looking at probably two billion dollars cleanup," said Sen. Billy Garrett.

People who call Greenwood County home, like Bradley Wootten, said they're relieved they don't have to move away.

"I'll feel even better once I see that the governor has signed the bill. And I'll feel ecstatic once I see a bulldozer down there doing some work," he said.

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Greenville County Councilman Butch Kirven said because the state agreed to fund $36 million instead of their original $30 million proposal, it won't take as much help from local groups to reach the about $45 million needed to replace Conestee.

According to Kirven, "And we're not sure yet how it's going to change those ratios, so perhaps we won't need quite as much money from county of Greenville to make the dam a reality."

According to Lowry, the next steps include permitting, finishing up schematic design, and fieldwork. He believed the new dam could be up in about three years. They'll break ground next summer.

$47.5M plan to prevent Lake Conestee Dam from failing awaits state approval

When you visit Conestee Nature Preserve, you can explore miles of trails where you might see wildlife such as deer, beavers, and even river otters — all amid the tranquility of one of the area’s most beloved natural settings.But lurking beneath the waters of Lake Conestee, a little way downstream from the preserve, rests a peril many believe is a disaster waiting to happen: perhaps as much as 3.25 ...

When you visit Conestee Nature Preserve, you can explore miles of trails where you might see wildlife such as deer, beavers, and even river otters — all amid the tranquility of one of the area’s most beloved natural settings.

But lurking beneath the waters of Lake Conestee, a little way downstream from the preserve, rests a peril many believe is a disaster waiting to happen: perhaps as much as 3.25 million cubic yards of sediment containing toxic metals like chromium and mercury, and other harmful chemicals like PCBs and pesticides. Those contaminants, confirmed by sampling conducted 20 years ago according to DHEC, are the result of more than a century of industrial pollution dumped into the Reedy River by textile and other manufacturers, which settled out in the waters held back by Lake Conestee Dam.

“Designed to meet modern engineering standards, the new structure would last well into the next century.” ?Kelly Lowry, DHEC representative

The dam was built more than 130 years ago and has been slowly deteriorating for decades, and fears of the dam’s failure are adding urgency to a push to secure state funding for a $47.5 million plan to build a new dam and prevent disaster.

The new dam would be built 10 feet downstream from the original and be anchored into the bedrock. Designed to meet modern engineering standards, the new structure would last well into the next century, according to Kelly Lowry, a private attorney from Spartanburg representing the state Department of Health and Environmental Control for the project.

Lowry briefed local leaders about plans for a new dam earlier this month at a meeting of Greenville County Council.

Conestee Nature Preserve holds endless wonders for birding enthusiasts

If the dam were to fail, he says the impact could be severe and cost millions — if not billions — of dollars in physical and environmental damage. The contaminated sediment would make its way downriver for years, eventually ending up in Boyd Mill Pond and Lake Greenwood, causing untold human and ecological harm.

DHEC confirms drinking water for an entire region would be contaminated, as Lake Greenwood is the main source for thousands of nearby residents.

Without the dam, Conestee Nature Preserve would also lose a lot of species attracted to the wetlands at the preserve due to water levels.

“If we didn’t have the dam, we’d have a much drier preserve area and we would lose a lot of species that love the wetlands,” says Gene McCall, an attorney working for the Conestee Foundation, which owns Conestee Nature Preserve.

Lowry says there’s no way to know whether such a disaster is imminent.

“It is a 100% complete unknown,” he says.

Page 1 of 33

August 26, 2022

VIA EMAIL, CERTIFIED & FIRST-CLASS MAIL

9214 8969 0099 9790 1422 1316 69

Michael Corley., Executive Director

Bill Bridges, Chairman of the Board of Directors

Conestee Foundation, Inc.

PO Box 9111

Greenville, SC 29604

Subject: Inspection of LAKE CONESTEE DAM, D2876, Greenville County,

Significant Hazard Class

Dear Mr. Corley and Mr. Bridges:

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (the Department/DHEC)

inspected your dam on August 18, 2022 and the report of that inspection is enclosed. Dam Safety

Program staff are available to discuss the results of the inspection with you. A summary of the

inspection report is as follows:

Inspection Summary

Overall Rating: Poor

Repair Activities Requiring a Permit and Prompt Resolution

• Engage a professional engineer to evaluate the penstock and to develop a plan for any

necessary repairs pursuant to their direction

Repair Activities Requiring a Permit and Long-Term Resolution

• Due to the continued movement of fine sediments which may potentially contain hazardous

constituents, a repair plan should be developed to address and control the seepage through

the dam.

Monitoring and Maintenance Activities NOT Requiring a Permit

• Monitor the dam in accordance with the EAP provided by the LCF and Kleinschmidt and

submit any documentation to the Department after high flow events or an inspection that is

performed in response to a seismic event.

• Implement the Kleinschmidt’s recommendation for periodic application of herbicides to the

water retaining structures to control vegetative growth on the structures that otherwise

would accelerate the deterioration of masonry and concrete. Consult with a professional for

Page 2 of 33

a herbicide that is labeled safe for aquatic use. It is noted that herbicide has recently been

applied to the dam.

• Routinely monitor for the accumulation of debris on the crest of the spillway and buildup on

the upstream side of the dam and safely remove as necessary.

• Visually monitor and document seepage and leakage through the dam. Please provide this

documentation periodically to the Department and at the next routine preliminary

inspection. If there is an increase in the amount of flow due to seepage, notify the

Department immediately.

• Perform weekly visual monitoring, and photographically document, the leakage around the

wood bulkhead over the penstock opening. Please provide a weekly report to me of the

findings via email.

Your dam is currently a Significant Hazard dam and its overall condition was assessed as “Poor”. This

rating, as established by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the National Inventory of Dams,

means “a dam safety deficiency is recognized for loading conditions, which may realistically occur.

Remedial action is necessary. A POOR condition is used when uncertainties exist as to critical analysis

parameters, which identify a potential dam safety deficiency. Further investigations and studies are

necessary.”

The Department requests the submission of a plan of action regarding the penstock flows no

later than COB September 16, 2022.

Repair activities denote significant deficiencies with the dam and require the involvement of a

Professional Engineer licensed to practice engineering in South Carolina. Your engineer should

prepare and submit a permit application to the Department for the proposed repair work. No

action can be taken to repair the dam until you have received a Department-issued permit; however,

in case of an emergency, where the owner finds repairs are necessary to safeguard life or property,

repairs may begin immediately but you shall immediately notify the department of the proposed

repair and work being undertaken. The Department requests the submission of a Permit

Application no later than December 30, 2022 to address the repair activities requiring prompt

resolution. This submission should also address and provide for a timeline regarding the

repair activities identified for long term resolution.

Shouldyou failto fulfill the actions detailed within the Preliminary Inspection report, and since the

condition of your dam has been determined to be unsafe and a danger to life or property, this letter

serves as courtesy notification that the Department is prepared toissue an Inspection and Repair

Order pursuant to S.C. Dams and Reservoirs Safety Act, S.C. Code Ann. § 49-11-110, et seq. and

Dams and Reservoirs Safety Act Regulations, 9 S.C. Code Ann. Regs 72-1 et seq.

Maintenance activities should be initiated immediately, if you have not already done so, and should

be completed as soon as possible. The involvement of a Professional Engineer is not required for

maintenance activities. Photographs can be submitted to the Department as confirmation that

these maintenance items have been addressed; alternatively, the Department can be contacted to

visit the dam and review the completed maintenance work.

As the owner of a regulated dam, it is your responsibility to routinely monitor the dam for any

deterioration of the dam which may lead to dam failure. Monitoring activities should be initiated

Page 3 of 33

immediately if you have not already done so and should continue until the Department determines

that conditions at the dam no longer pose a threat to life or property. Please notify the Department

if you notice any change in the area(s) being monitored.

In closing, failure to maintain the dam in a safe condition is a violation of the SC Dams and

Reservoirs Safety Act, S.C. Code Ann. 49-11-110, et seq., (2008). Your voluntary cooperation is

requested; however, failure to comply may result in the Department issuing an “Inspection and

Repair Order” and/or a “Maintenance Order.” The consequences of non-compliance with a

department-issued order may include the assessment of civil penalties pursuant to, S.C. Code Ann.

49-11-110, et seq. (2008) and Regulation 72-1, et seq. (2012).Additionally, at any time should the risk

of dam failure be deemed imminent, the Department has authority under section 49-11-190 of the

S.C. Dams and Reservoir Safety Act to issue an Emergency Order demanding remedial measures be

undertaken by the dam owner to protect life and property. If the owner fails to do so, the

Department my exercise its authority to implement remedial measures when the owner is unable or

unwilling to do so.

Please submit all documents/correspondence via email or to:

Bureau of Water – Dam Safety Program

Attn: Chuck Owens

2600 Bull Street

Columbia, SC 29201

Please let us know if you have any questions and feel free to contact me anytime at (864) 561-1395

or by email at Owensc2@dhec.sc.gov.

Sincerely,

Chuck Owens

Dam Safety Regional Engineering Associate

cc (via email): Jill Stewart, PE, Dam Safety Program, BOW

John McCain, PE, Dam Safety Program, BOW

But the risk is real, as DHEC rated the dam “poor” with “numerous active seeps and deterioration” in 2022.

Funding for the dam project was approved this session by the state House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, but the Senate Finance Committee has yet to vote on the matter.

In 2022, $3 million was allotted from the budget to perform a study by the Kleinschmidt Group to define the problem and recommend solutions for the dam. That money is being used for initial planning but is insufficient to begin construction.

“The $3 million that we got last year is being used right now to create the schematic design, do all the footwork that has to happen before including qualifying contractors who would be doing the actual work,” Lowry says.

Fix for leaking, 131-year-old Conestee Dam may be closer than ever. Here's what to know.

Tim CarlinPores in the 131-year-old Conestee dam have begun seeping potentially hazardous sediment downstream toward Lake Greenwood, a source of drinking water for residents in other counties.And although the masonry dam has withstood the test of time, the Conestee Nature Preserve and Foundation has long called for help implementing a solution.But through a renewed effort by ...

Tim Carlin

Pores in the 131-year-old Conestee dam have begun seeping potentially hazardous sediment downstream toward Lake Greenwood, a source of drinking water for residents in other counties.

And although the masonry dam has withstood the test of time, the Conestee Nature Preserve and Foundation has long called for help implementing a solution.

But through a renewed effort by the nature preserve, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and community stakeholders both up and downstream, plans to build a replacement dam about 10 feet from the current structure could soon become a reality.

"We're definitely excited that we appear to be moving, literally and figuratively, toward a concrete solution," said Gene McCall, an attorney for the Conestee Nature Preserve and Foundation.

Here's when toxic materials were discovered behind Lake Conestee Dam

Twenty years ago, toxic materials were first discovered within the sediment that had built up behind the dam, according to DHEC's website. The sediment had been building up since the dam was first built in 1892.

Before environmental protections like the Clean Water Act were put into place, companies and area textile mills used the Reedy River to get rid of toxic materials, allowing those toxins to attach themselves to the river's sediment, said Spartanburg-based environmental lawyer Kelly D.H. Lowry.

After the toxic materials were discovered, the Conestee Foundation partnered with DHEC to create what is called a voluntary cleanup contract.

According to DHEC, the contract did two things:

The contract said the foundation should allow cleaner sediments to collect and cover the older more contaminated ones. It also said the dam should remain in place to prevent the contaminated sediments from migrating downstream.

Over the years, DHEC continued to monitor the dam, issuing its most recent

That report rated the dam's condition as poor, and encouraged the development of a repair plan to "to address and control the seepage through the dam."

Also in 2022, DHEC received $3 million from the state budget to address long-term solutions to the dam's deterioration. The organization then approached Lowry last summer to oversee the spending of those funds.

Lowry said he asked the Kleinschmidt Group, an engineering consulting firm that had previously created a solutions report for the Conestee Foundation in 2019, to again determine the best path forward.

Consultants came to the same conclusion as before: the best path forward is to leave the current dam in place and build a concrete replacement about 10 feet downstream.

This plan was chosen, Lowry said because there is no feasible way to decontaminate the sediment without causing spillover.

With a new, concrete dam placed a bit further downstream, sediments can continue to seep through the older dam without impacting water quality for downstream residents.

Previous Reporting:'Trash jam' grows at Lake Conestee dam after recent flooding

'We're gambling every day:'Lake Conestee dam remains a flooding and environmental risk

Here's how much fixing Lake Conestee Dam will cost

But the project comes with a price tag of nearly $47.5 million.

Since a dam failure could create "significant harm" across multiple counties, Lowry presented the funding need to the South Carolina House of Representatives' Ways and Means Committee, which is currently building the state's budget for the next fiscal year.

The committee included funding for a new dam in its budget proviso that was recently presented for consideration on the House floor.

During a presentation before Greenville County Council's committee of the whole on Tuesday, March 7, Lowry said the state might ask for local stakeholders — like the city and county — to help contribute funds to the repair project, but no formal requests have been made yet.

And while there is a way to go before any money is officially allocated, Lowry said area stakeholders are motivated and hopeful.

"There's abundant positive momentum," Lowry told The Greenville News.

If funding is approved by the state, work could begin as early as September, Lowry said. Kleinschmidt is currently drafting schematics for a new dam, which would take about three years to construct, Lowry said.

He expressed gratitude toward both the legislature and area stakeholders for coming together to create progress.

"This is the year for this project to succeed," Lowry said.

Tim Carlin covers county government, growth and development for The Greenville News. Follow him on Twitter@timcarlin_, and get in touch with him atTCarlin@gannett.com.

Conestee Nature Preserve raising funds for new dam

Greenville, Laurens counties, South Carolina – The Reedy River flows 65 miles from its origins near Travelers Rest, through the popular Falls Park in downtown Greenville and eventually through western Laurens County and into Lake Greenwood. The river and its wetlands are also important to the Conestee Nature Preserve, a non-profit which includes more than 400 acres of trails and wildlife habitat about seven miles south of downtown Greenville.Photos: Tara Brown EdwardsHowever, in addition to numerous trai...

Greenville, Laurens counties, South Carolina – The Reedy River flows 65 miles from its origins near Travelers Rest, through the popular Falls Park in downtown Greenville and eventually through western Laurens County and into Lake Greenwood. The river and its wetlands are also important to the Conestee Nature Preserve, a non-profit which includes more than 400 acres of trails and wildlife habitat about seven miles south of downtown Greenville.

Photos: Tara Brown Edwards

However, in addition to numerous trails, platforms for bird watchers, an adjacent City of Greenville park and dog park, the Conestee property also includes the 130-year-old Lake Conestee Dam, and concerns have resurfaced recently about the environmental damage that could occur if the historic, stone masonry dam fails.

At issue is not the flow of water over the crest of the dam, which occurs occasionally, but rather decades worth of toxins and waste within the sediment at the base of the dam, explained Conestee Nature Preserve Operations Director Erin Knight.

Not a new problem

Built in the late 1880s to early 1890s, the dam quickly became a stopping point for City of Greenville waste and the numerous textile mills built upstream.

This isn’t a new problem, Knight said, and for several years the non-profit board and staff have sought funding while working with engineers and DHEC to develop an affordable solution.

“When Conestee Nature Preserve was founded by a small nonprofit with a vision of preserving wildlife habitat and providing public access to a natural space near the heart of urban Greenville, the organization also inherited a problem of historical contamination and an aging dam,” Knight said in a release issued Friday to The Laurens County Advertiser. “Studies over the years determined that the contaminants pose no threat as long as they, and the newer sediments above them holding them in place, remain undisturbed. That fits perfectly with the mission and vision of Conestee Nature Preserve, but it means the dam must remain in place.”

While Conestee Nature Preserve board and staff members worked to raise funds, they have also met with engineers and DHEC officials who regularly test the water and nearby soils and the dam structure.

The historic dam is one of the few stone masonry structures regulated under the South Carolina Dams and Reservoir Safety Act, explained DHEC Spokesperson Ron Aiken, and DHEC staff are aware of its problems.

“Sampling that was conducted 20 years ago detected the presence of metals, pesticides and, most prevalent, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (or PAHs) within the sediment at concentrations above EPA levels acceptable for unrestricted use,” Aiken said. “DHEC staff have determined failure of the dam would likely cause interruption of use or service based on a temporary halt in withdrawal of water from drinking water intakes in Lake Greenwood due to the risk of impacts from the contaminated sediments.”

Finding funding

The Conestee Nature Preserve has an agreement with DHEC to maintain the dam to prevent the release of the contaminated sediments, Aiken said; however, DHEC has realized Conestee lacks the resources to carry out this responsibility and has been taking part in meetings with local leaders and elected officials to help Conestee address the needed repairs.

Funds finally came through last summer, when the state’s budget included in its Special Appropriations $3 million for the Conestee Dam Emergency Mitigation for fiscal year 2023. The funds are being managed by DHEC until the time comes that the work can get underway, Knight said.

“With $3 million in hand and a clear plan to secure all necessary funds in 2023, Conestee Nature Preserve has a team of consultants and engineers, a DHEC-appointed trustee and meets regularly with regional stakeholders,” Knight said.

Others in these regular talks include ReWa, which is a neighbor to the Conestee property, officials from Greenville, Greenwood and Laurens counties, DHEC, lead and secondary engineering firms, Duke Energy and Greenville city and county staff.

A project on this scale cannot be completed with $3 million, however, so Knight said meetings continue as the non-profit seeks additional funding through grants, regional stakeholders such as the City of Greenville and Greenville County, corporations and the State of South Carolina.

“Together these should fund the project in full,” Knight said, “and Conestee Nature Preserve is on the verge of resolution.”

Local impact

Locally, Laurens County Water and Sewer Executive Director Jeff Field has been part of some of those talks, and he said he is encouraged that the project has attracted enough attention to begin to bring in funds. While Field has not heard a specific amount, he feels certain that Conestee Nature Preserve board and staff will be able to pull the needed funding from the state and Greenville area stakeholders.

“DHEC has made it a priority and when you have the head state agency start getting the support of elected officials, it brings results,” Field said. “The $3 million was a terrific first step.”

DHEC and EPA have done multiple sediment and dam structure studies and reported that currently the toxic sludge appears to be well encapsulated within the good sediment, Field said, and current testing shows the water downstream near Laurens County is safe. An algae bloom more than 20 years ago resulted in better regulations which have made a difference in the waters entering Lake Greenwood.

“There’s always a lot of eyes on the Reedy and the Saluda, and we have been part of those groups for some time,” Field said. “But because of the urgency of the Conestee Dam, our part in the stakeholders’ meetings have increased. I think it has the momentum to get this done.”

Right now the water in Lake Greenwood is in great shape, Field said, and with about 45 miles between the dam and Lake Greenwood, no one can speculate exactly what the negative impact would be here if the dam were to break.

“We’re all pushing as much as we can for this, and I want to see these dollars committed,” Field said. “I hope this coalition stays together and stays till the end.”

At the Conestee Nature Preserve, Knight agrees.

“Solving problems as complex as this one takes time,” Knight said, “but thanks to all these partners and to much public support, Conestee Nature Preserve is on the verge of resolution.”

This story originally ran Page 1 in the Jan. 25, 2023 issue of The Laurens County Advertiser.

SC House, Senate debate funding full replacement of 130-year-old dam holding back toxic chemicals

GREENVILLE COUNTY, S.C. —The South Carolina House and Senate are now debating how much they should contribute to replacing a more than a century-old dam in Greenville County, just barely holding back tons of toxic chemicals.Officials said this is the closest state and local government have ever been to replacing the Conestee Dam.At this point, the South Carolina House has approved the full amount to replace Conestee Dam: $47.5 million. The Senate has approved $30 million. Whatever comes out of conf...

GREENVILLE COUNTY, S.C. —

The South Carolina House and Senate are now debating how much they should contribute to replacing a more than a century-old dam in Greenville County, just barely holding back tons of toxic chemicals.

Officials said this is the closest state and local government have ever been to replacing the Conestee Dam.

At this point, the South Carolina House has approved the full amount to replace Conestee Dam: $47.5 million. The Senate has approved $30 million. Whatever comes out of conference committee in the coming days could mean the difference between a new dam and billions of dollars worth of damage and pollution.

According to Kelly Lowry, the Conestee trustee, the dam has been a source of controversy for years.

"The dam as you see it there is over 130 years old. Its lifespan was probably supposed to be about 50," he said. "So, it's well past its engineered lifespan. And there's a lot of worry that it could fail sometime soon. We don't know. But the consequence of failure would be significant."

Significant as in if it fails, engineering and DHEC studies show it could cause billions of dollars worth of damage and release chemicals like PAHs (cancer-causing chemicals made from burning oil and coal) into Lake Greenwood. The lake is the main source of drinking water for Greenwood and Laurens counties.

Mills and businesses along the river dumped toxic waste into the Reedy River for years before the Clean Water Act. It settled into sediment behind the now-crumbling dam.

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"We could have an earthquake and it could take it out tomorrow," said SC Sen. Billy Garrett.

Garrett has lobbied for this money for years and helped get $3 million to study how to solve the problem last year.

The answer: Replace the dam for $47.5 million.

The House approved that amount. The Senate approved $30 million.

Reporter: "Why 30 million instead of 47.5 million?"

Garrett: "It's a negotiation tool. Again, the machinations that goes on between the House and Senate come budget time, it's like hamburger, you know? It's great when it comes out finally, but while it's being made it's pretty rough to look at."

The conference committee should begin in a week and a half, according to Lowry. If they don't approve the whole amount, the remainder may fall to local stakeholders.

We reached out to the local stakeholders, and at this point, most both up and downstream are still considering.

Greenville County has committed to helping, if need be, but they say the approval process for local funds are much slower than the state.

For now, Lowry says engineers will continue planning. They can break ground after getting permit approval. It should take three years to build.

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