9 investigates community's push for clean drinking water

by: Natalie Pasquarella Updated:


HENRY'S KNOB, S.C. - Local residents in one South Carolina community have worried about the safety of their water for years.
Eyewitness News anchor Natalia Pasquarella investigated well water contamination from an old mining site in the Henry's Knob area of Clover almost 18 months ago.
Environmental Protection Agency officials said in October of 2012 they were working to fix the issue. In February, they showed Pasquarella their new plan to provide clean water.
Several residents said they're not signing on yet because they're still concerned.
Henry's Knob residents say they're sick of constantly worrying about their well water.
"It's caused a lot of stress for us,” said Anna Eaton.
They met with Pasquarella at the home of their neighbor Georga Linkus-Long.
Linkus-Long and her father-in-law Larry Long share a well, and both say they worry about what's coming out of their faucets.
"You get a rotten egg smell,” Larry Long said.
Aside from the smell, Linkus-Long said she worries about her health.
"I want to know my family is safe. I mean we've all been sick,” Linkus-Long said.
Eyewitness News first talked to Linkus-Long and her neighbors about the problem in late 2012.
The EPA confirmed then that the Henry's Knob site had housed a kyanite mine more than 30 years ago and the mine contaminated groundwater with hazardous levels of manganese and cobalt, which the agency says can cause neurological problems.
A company called ABB took responsibility for the contamination and has been working with the EPA to get clean water to residents.
At the time, the EPA said hooking those homes to city water was the best option.
Almost a year and half later, they've switched to an entirely different plan: Installing individual treatment systems on each homeowner's well.
Neighbors told me they're not confident the systems will make their water safe or that they'll last especially after seeing how Larry Long's filter is working out.
"They dug a new well for me,” Long said.
Long showed  Pasquarella the wellhead treatment system he says ABB set up for him in 2011. He said it worked fine the first couple months, but now, "Every two to three months, I've had to call 'em about something. I called 'em Friday about this."
He said his filter isn't working and that the brown substance is supposed to be clear during the filter process.
Pasquarella took Long’s and other residents’ concerns to the EPA.
"It's very effective for this exact problem,” said project manager Craig Zeller.
Zeller took over the Henry's Knob cleanup this summer.
He said while the new treatment systems do require some maintenance, they are effective.
"This system is pretty routine, we've installed wellhead systems at a variety of sites across the U.S., very similar to this,” Zeller said.
Zeller has already helped facilitate installation for residents like Jamie McMackin.
"I think it's the best alternative that's been put before me,” McMackin said.
When Pasquarella spoke to McMackin, ABB crews were putting a new well on his property.
"They guaranteed us 100 percent, when they walk away from here, that I'm going to have satisfactory water,” he said.
The EPA said about half of the residents affected have signed on to install the treatment system.
While the others, including the ones here, are now getting legal counsel from an environmental firm out of California.
“Well, we're going to keep working with them. I think you know, we're out here trying to build some trust that we are very sincere and we want to get these folks hooked up with some cleaner water,” Zeller said.
Pasquarella spoke with ABB and the company said they'll have ample water testing before and after installation of the filter systems.
They're still reaching out to remaining residents and asking for permission to pull water samples and begin the installation process.