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Carolina Conscience: Lead and unregulated contaminant in Denmark water!

Updated: Dec 7, 2018

Residents in Denmark, South Carolina, have been plagued with discolored water coming from their taps since 2008. Despite complaints state government assured residents that their water was safe. A recent CNN investigation has unearthed new information that may help provide answers to the many community concerns about water quality in the city of Denmark.


For 10 years state government has been adding a chemical known as HaloSan (bromochlorodimethylhydantoin) to the city of Denmark’s water supply, in an effort to treat naturally occurring iron bacteria that causes red stains or rust-like deposits in the water. HaloSan is not approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to disinfect drinking water. The EPA and the state of South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) have confirmed that there is now an open investigation into the use of HaloSan.


The chemical bromochlorodimethylhydantoin is broadly used as a disinfectant for pools and spas. The city’s water supply system serves nearly 3000 people and the public health impacts of this emerging chemical are still unknown. Chemicals like HaloSan actually fall under the EPA’s pesticide program. However, HaloSan is not a registered pesticide product and has not been reviewed by EPA’s pesticide program. Thus, HaloSan has no regulated dosage guidelines for its intended use without harm to public health and the environment. In 2007, the EPA completed a risk assessment on HaloSan or bromochlorodimethylhydantoin revealing it to be a significant eye and skin irritant. Side effects can include burning, rash, itching, skin discoloration, redness, blistering, hives, welts, dermatitis, and bleeding. Eye pain and swelling of eyes have also been reported. This issue has caused some distrust between the many water system ratepayers and government officials who claimed the water was properly treated.


Some resident’s tap water has received test results for high amounts of lead. In 2010, SCDHEC tested tap water and found homes in Denmark with twice the legal limit for lead. Local doctors are finding high levels of lead in patient’s blood from the community. Many residents of all ages have been diagnosed with bladder and kidney dysfunction. Folks say there have been concerns about skin rashes and kidney problems among residents for years. Water quality concerns have made some residents choose to drive over 20 miles to collect local spring water to cook, drink and brush their teeth.


It is important to note that no level of lead in the water supply is considered safe, but the EPA has set a maximum level of lead contamination in tap water at 15 ppb—also known as the “action level.” Samples of water taken from Flint showed lead levels close to 1,000 times the action level. Oxidizing agents in water such as HaloSan can react with exposed lead pipes causing water-soluble lead ions to enter the water supply.


If you would like to learn more about how you can help support impacted folks in Demark SC contact Xavier Boatright at xboat@allaboardforjustice.org. Please include “Denmark Water Support” in the email subject line or give us call.



Sounding like FLINT?


In 2013, Flint government officials decided to change the source of the city’s water from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA). At the time of the agreement, KWA was not ready to deliver the water, because they were still in the process of building a new pipeline to bring water from Lake Huron. Government officials in the city of Flint needed to find a short-term solution so they decided to use water from the local Flint River that they would clean in water treatment plants.Problems began as soon as Flint switched over to the new source. Residents were complaining of foul-smelling and discolored water. The city officials initially denied that there were any issues, but were soon forced to issue a boil-water advisory. The General Motors car plant in Flint even announced that they would no longer use the water out of fear it would cause corrosion within the factory.


City officials later told residents that their water had high levels of organic molecules called trihalomethanes. Trihalomethanes are a concern because they have been linked with numerous health concerns, including liver, kidney, lung, and heart problems. Trihalomethanes were not the only group of chemicals associated with the water contamination in Flint. Staggering levels of lead in tap water revealed a greater threat to public health in Flint. Lead was widely used as water pipes for centuries. Water pipes are no longer made from lead, but older towns and cities, still rely on lead pipes to transport water to people’s homes. No one knows exactly how many lead pipes are still currently being used in the United States. In addition to the pipes themselves, lead can also be found in other parts of the plumbing system.


Have concerns about lead in your water? For help with test options contact us here!


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