One Week Later, Dam Breach Unsolved

The remnants of the Dawson’s Pond dam, which ruptured last week, causing the complete drainage of the more than 90-year-old pond. Residents are still seeking an explanation as the mystery of what happened there on the night of Aug. 6 only deepens.

BLYTHEWOOD – The mystery of what caused the dam holding back Dawson’s Pond to breach last week, draining the 92-year-old landmark and triggering a flash flood that blocked Highway 21, has only deepened since Aug. 6 and Monday night, residents of the neighborhood turned to the Town of Blythewood for help.

“The Town has a responsibility to help us,” Dawson’s Creek resident Carol Peeples said at Monday’s informal meeting with Mayor J. Michael Ross and Town Administrator John Perry. “We are all residents of Blythewood and we think Blythewood has a responsibility to help us get it (the dam) repaired.”

But while Ross said the Town would make the call to the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to address the health issues presented by the now empty and muddy lake bed, and the Town would try to facilitate a second meeting between residents and Richland County, who Peeples said is at least partially responsible for the breach, that was about as far as the Town could go.

“We’re not in the dam business,” Ross said. “We don’t maintain dams. If something happens on my property, it’s my responsibility to fix it. This is a little out of our league.”

Ross said the Town would also help guide the neighbors through the process of forming a homeowner’s association, which could collectively maintain a repaired dam in the future.

Peeples said there were a number of factors that contributed to last week’s disaster, some that have been building up for years to just such a catastrophe.

“We have been asking Richland County for 13 years to come out and do a proper re-digging of the drainage system,” Peeples said. “We ask them monthly to come out and take care of the beavers that are damming up the (drainage) creek. They lie to us and tell us they’ve done that, that they’ve captured beavers, but the beavers are still there, building dams.”

Peeples said the Roads and Drainage division of Richland County’s Public Works Department is responsible for maintaining the drainage creek that handles overflow from the pond, and they have neglected doing so. When the pond at Blythewood High School overflowed on the night of Aug. 6, she said, the water from that pond flooded her yard and overwhelmed Dawson’s Pond’s drainage system. Monday night Peeples presented the Town with a document she said detailed correspondence between members of the Department discussing her request for service. That document only added to the mystery of what breached the dam.

“The embankment on the back side of [the] pond within the power line right-of-way has been dug out,” a Department employee identified as “PittsD” stated on Aug. 8 in the document. “This has caused the pond to drain.”

PittsD goes on to say that the County has not been to the area and is not responsible for draining of the pond.

But Peeples said someone has indeed been in the area performing work. Just weeks before the dam break, Peeples said she and others saw workers in boats using machinery in the retention area.

“I don’t know if it was Richland County, the Department of Transportation or Santee Cooper,” Peeples said. “But we saw workers in floating machines. Someone was doing work in the retention area, and now Roads and Drainage says someone ‘dug it out’. Somebody has been out there digging. We need to know who was out there with that large equipment.”

The Richland County Ombudsman’s Office confirmed Tuesday that Roads and Drainage was responsible for maintaining the creek, but said detailed records of any work performed would have to be obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

“I don’t have anything showing beaver removal,” a supervisor with the Ombudsman’s Office told The Voice Tuesday. “Normally, the County contracts that kind of work out.”

Ross said the Town would, in the next week, bring Richland County to the table to try to shed more light on what, exactly, happened to the Dawson’s Pond dam.