A handful of Anson County families were able to return home Tuesday morning after a scare from a breached dam. A dam owned by B.V. Hedrick Gravel and Sand in Lilesville failed Monday and multiple households were evacuated.
This private dam, constructed in 1924 is not regulated by the Department of Environmental Quality because of its size and was last rated as being in fair condition. North Carolina exempts dams from regulation for a variety of reasons including size unless regulators determine a breach could result in loss of human life or significant damage to property downstream. Some other states exempt dams based on size regardless of downstream potential hazards. Mark Ogden with the Association of State Dam Safety Officials doesn’t recommend that.
“Our association is certainly opposed to that,” Ogden said. “We feel like it really doesn’t matter what type, who owns the dam or what the purpose of the dam is. If it presents a potential hazard to downstream areas than that dam should be inspected, should have an emergency action plan and should be regulated.”
At least six dams in South Carolina have breached since Florence. State regulators are on standby as the water levels are expected to continue rising as water flows in from North Carolina. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control assessed 262 dams in high-risk areas ahead of the storm so owners could prepare dams as much as possible by lowering water levels, removing debris and keeping spillways clear. DHEC and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have assessed 162 dams since the storm made landfall.
In 2015 during historic flooding, 51 dams in South Carolina failed. Since then, DHEC has increased oversight and inspections of high and significant hazard dams across the state.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to clarify that the Association of Dam Safety Officials recommends states don’t exempt dams solely based on size.