Editor’s note: The People’s Tribune interviewed Deanna Berry from Denmark, South Carolina about the town’s water struggle. Residents say water runs brown, stains the laundry and tastes bad. Virginia Tech Scientist Marc Edwards, who helped expose the lead in Flint’s water, said it is possible residents are drinking sewage water.
“There’s hundreds of people here who say they’re always sick and can’t find out why. A lot of people have kidney failure, cancers, other illnesses that may be attributed to the water. The Department of Health and Environmental Control recently shared water samples, and Dr. Marc Edwards found contaminants in what was sent. He offered to find out where the contamination starts, whether from the wells or piping, which is almost 80 years old. But a few days before Edwards was coming, he got a phone call from the mayor’s office, saying don’t come back to test the water.
“When the mayor was asked why not test, why not find out why people are getting sick and poisoned and whether it is coming from our water source, he just says because he can’t.
“We have reached out to the governor’s office twice. We were told they don’t get into local affairs with municipalities—they step in with big issues. Well, this is a pretty big issue! Lead in the water, high levels of manganese, e-coli, along with other bacteria. And, we found an illegal dumping site where raw sewage was running into a river where people fish.
“Councilmen and representatives are concerned.
“The water has been an issue for years. In 2009, citizens started fighting the city and then the tax increased—first 20% and then 40%, so we’re still paying a 60% tax rate increase on our water bill.
“Our poverty rate is 33% below poverty level. There are no jobs and there isn’t any industry. People cannot afford the water. We have elderly citizens with water bills of $1,000 a month. They are getting water turned off with no notice. Nobody cares about us poor people.
“We are trying to educate the public. If we stand together—the bigger the numbers—they will listen. If we have 3,000 people saying bring Virginia Tech in, we can win. People are getting bolder.