Water Boil Alert Issued Late

A boil water notice issued by the Jenkinsville Water Company last month was late in coming, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) said last week, putting the public at a potential health risk and the company in jeopardy of possible penalties.

The Jenkinsville Water Company issued the boil advisory July 9 after lab tests revealed the presence of E. coli bacteria in samples taken from a home in the Feasterville area of Fairfield County. Follow-up tests found the sample actually came from a private well outside a home, company president Gregrey Ginyard said, which was not part of the company’s water system, and the boil was lifted by the end of the week. The problem, DHEC said, was the timeliness of the initial alert and when they were brought into the picture.

According to DHEC, the original samples were collected July 3 and submitted to Data Resources, a private laboratory, the same day. After finding E. coli present in one of the samples, Data Resources e-mailed those test results to the Jenkinsville Water Company July 5 at 2:20 p.m.

A public water system, DHEC said, is responsible for issuing public notice within 24 hours after it learns of a violation, which means the Jenkinsville Water Company should have sounded the boil water alarms by July 6. Furthermore, DHEC said, a public water system should notify DHEC by the end of the day when the system is notified of an E. coli positive test result, unless the system is notified after the department is closed, then they notify the department the next business day.

“A Jenkinsville water system representative sent an email to DHEC on Friday July 6 at 3:09 p.m.,” DHEC said, more than 24 hours after the water company learned of the lab results. “The person receiving the email was not in the office at that time, but this does not relieve the (Jenkinsville Water Company) of the responsibility for making public notice. Monday morning (July 9) Jenkinsville called the Department. At that time they were told to issue a Boil Water Notice and the notice was issued.”

Ginyard said the oversight was simple human error.

“Our operator (James Green) pretty much dropped the ball,” Ginyard said. “I was out of town that weekend on vacation. Instead of getting notice out that day, it went out that Monday (July 9). We were supposed to get notice out within 24 hours and we didn’t. Mr. Green just made a mistake. He’s just a human being. He’s a great guy and I put my trust in him completely, but he just dropped the ball on it.”

“DHEC has issued a Notice of Violation to Jenkinsville (July 25) for failure to issue public notification within 24 hours of learning of an e-coli positive sample,” a DHEC spokesperson said last week. “There has been no decision made on whether a civil penalty will be assessed. That decision is made near the end of the enforcement process.”

According to the S.C. Code of Laws, Section 44-55-90, failure to properly notify the public of drinking water violations could result in a fine of up to $10,000, a year in jail or both, if convicted. The law also carries a civil penalty of a $5,000 per day fine, per violation.