Whiteville city manager holds downtown flood tour meeting
Whiteville City Manager Darren Currie hosted a tour in downtown Whiteville Thursday afternoon to discuss and demonstrate the city’s efforts to relieve flooding during major rain events.
The tour started near Vineland Station and traveled west toward J.K. Powell Boulevard. Currie said the purpose of the tour was to give a visual example of what is being discussed in the organizational meetings and see ongoing projects.
Downtown business owners, Chamber President Jennifer Holcomb and two members of city council, Justin Smith and Mayor Terry Mann, heard how Golden LEAF grants from Hurricane Matthew funding were used to construct and lay underground pipes for better drainage between Walter Street and Main Street west of Lee Street.
After Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Florence in 2018, downtown business owners wanted to learn what steps are being taken to help alleviate flooding in downtown Whiteville.
Currie said the installation of 30-inch pipes and three new junction boxes would significantly help at the corner of Lee and Walter streets. T
he continued snagging of debris in Soules Swamp would help reduce flooding. “As long as that swamp is not overfilled and is flowing, we’re good. But if it’s backed up, it’s going to equalize,” Currie said.
Columbus County Soil and Water Director Edward Davis said that commercial development from Horry County and the piedmont area of North Carolina is adding more water to the Waccamaw River and swamps, creating problems for Columbus County’s storm water drainage.
“If you look at places that are 30 or 40 miles from the ocean, that’s where you’re seeing most of the problems with swamps filling up too fast , ” Davis said. “We’re competing with developing areas to the south and north of us, and it’s creating havoc on the small towns.”
Davis said he applauds the City of Whiteville with being aggressive toward applying for federal storm water grant money to help with flooding issues.
Lisa Fisher, who owns properties in downtown Whiteville, suggested that business owners apply for grants to fix drains on private property that connect to city storm water drains.
Holcomb said the Columbus Chamber of Commerce and Tourism is hosting a community lunch forum at Vineland Station today (Tuesday) with Currie and Davis on hand to give a brief explanation of what was discussed during Thursday’s downtown tour.
“There’s a lot of misinformation or no information out there,” Holcomb said. “We can down other organizations all we want, but we need to lift each other up and stay informed.”
Currie explained that the city smoke-tested buildings downtown and found traces of methane gas inside.
“We’ve seen a tremendous amount of smoke coming out of storm drain boxes,” Currie said, “which tells us that we’ve got a lot of storm drains tied into our sewer system, and that’s not a good thing.
We’ve got stormwater competing with wastewater.” He said that stormwater mixing into wastewater puts an overload on the pipes, adds more water to what has to be treated and costs the city more money in the process.