South Carolina editorial roundup
Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:
The Index-Journal on helping solve community crime:
Justice for the families of slain loved ones? No one can argue with that.
Getting crimes, especially violent crimes that involve death, solved? Absolutely.
It would be helpful, however, if people would come forward and share what they know with law enforcement. Sure, we understand that in certain cases, such as those witnessed here in Greenwood of late, people are reluctant to come forward for fear of retribution. No one necessarily expects anyone with knowledge about these shooting deaths to walk into the police station or sheriff’s office in broad daylight. But there are plenty of ways people can safely relay information that can lead to the arrests that so many want to see happen. City police can take calls at 864-942-8407, receive a message through its Facebook page, or through the anonymous online tip form at cityofgreenwoodsc.com/departments/police/submit-an-anonymous-tip. Likewise, Greenwood County Sheriff’s Office can be reached at 864-942-8632, or by calling CrimeStoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC.
Unfortunately, some people who label themselves as activists and operate under the pretense that they are trying to help the victims’ families and, by extension, this community, are, in fact, causing far more harm. They demand justice and resolution, they demand that law enforcement do their jobs, but they would do well to hit the streets where these crimes occurred and either gather intelligence that can help law enforcement or urge people to share what they know with law enforcement.
Marching in the streets is fine and raises awareness, but there are other productive endeavors the activists could involve themselves in. True, those endeavors might not be as high profile and garner media coverage, but they might actually spawn the results the victims’ families seek and that they themselves claim to seek.
The Aiken Standard on the publication’s ongoing reporting on the Savannah River Site:
The Aiken Standard covered news and information in and around Aiken for 83 years before President Harry S. Truman asked DuPont for expertise in starting an atomic energy project in our neighborhood. For the last 70 years, the Savannah River Site has been a consistent and important topic for our readers, locally and beyond.
Right now, the site is in a bit of a flux. Political plays and shifting plutonium are creating uncertainty with the general public about who’s on first. There’s no better time than now to take a deeper dive on this topic that is vital to national security and whose success has run in tandem with the CSRA for almost three generations.
Over the last several months, reporters have been looking at documents and talking to experts about how we got here and the future of the site. This edition is the start of a series looking extensively at not only MOX and plutonium but also the entire Savannah River Site and its many facets.
This has been a collaborative journalism effort. This project brought together investigative reporters Colin Demarest of the Aiken Standard and fellow Evening Post Industries’ daily newspaper, Charleston’s Post & Courier’s Thad Moore and Glenn Smith.
The focus of (the June 7) story looks at the plutonium located at the site, its challenges with aging infrastructure and more. We hope both lifelong residents and newcomers will learn something new about the Savannah River Site from reading this issue.
The story talks about the fall of the mixed oxide facility, MOX, which closed in October of last year — a story, by the way, that was first broken to CSRA readers and many in Washington by Demarest. And the Standard expressed its disappointment in the MOX closure but applauded the efforts by our government officials.
The news from SRS doesn’t stop with the closure of MOX; the Aiken Standard will continue to cover the proceedings of whether pit production will come to SRS and the long-term storage solution of plutonium that’s being held at Savannah River.
SRS is important to our region, and Aiken Standard readers, for many reasons: workforce, economic power and influence, environmental impact, contribution to the community and charitable institutions, and of course, its role in our national security. We take all of it seriously.
So do those we speak to at the NNSA, DOE and SRS. Savannah River Site has raised the bar for nuclear safety and security, making it one of the very best facilities of its type and setting the standard around the world.
The Post and Courier on solutions for the state’s unsafe drinking water problem:
To ensure all South Carolinians have safe drinking water, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control needs greater authority to compel dozens of failing rural water systems to join forces with their neighbors to create economies of scale capable of financing upgrades that would be unaffordable otherwise.
Many small rural water systems have for years failed to deliver safe drinking water due to incompetence, worn-out infrastructure or lax enforcement of water quality standards, among other problems.
Worse, most small rural water providers simply cannot afford the kind of systemwide improvements needed even with grants and low-cost loans provided by state and federal agencies. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the needed repairs would cost about $1.8 billion statewide over 20 years.
“The needs are greater than all the resources combined,” Bonnie Ammons, head of the Rural Infrastructure Authority, recently told the House Legislative Oversight Committee. Since 2013, the RIA has distributed about $122 million in grants to help cope with the problem.
In response to questions from legislators, Ms. Ammons said she was unaware of any mechanism that would enable the state or DHEC to take over failing water systems. But she did say there had been recent discussions about compelling failing water agencies to merge with larger ones or form regional co-ops that would be better able to finance major improvements, something consultants recommended as far back as 2005.
In 2012, for example, when the Hampton County town of Gifford was facing insurmountable water system repairs, the mayor reached out to four neighboring towns and formed a regional water system that was better able to cope with the costs.
More often than not, however, small municipalities have resisted mergers, partly because their water systems bring in significant income, and officials are wary of ceding any control over that revenue.
Another problem, Ammons said, is that there is no incentive for successful systems to absorb smaller troubled systems.
The State newspaper’s “Tainted Water” series documented dozens of cases in which rural water systems were contaminated by bacteria or higher-than-acceptable levels of lead or radium, both of which can have dire health effects.
In Denmark, city officials for up to 10 years used an unapproved chemical to treat rust-colored, bacteria-contaminated well water. In Jenkinsville in 2011, officials failed for four days to issue a boil-water alert because of contamination simply because the manager was out of town. The newspaper series also showed that DHEC often went easy on small rural agencies found in violation of drinking water standards.
Only once in recent memory has a failing water agency merged with a larger one. The city of Florence, under pressure from the state and federal government, agreed to take over the Timmonsville water system to resolve a 2013 lawsuit brought against the smaller town by the Environmental Protection Agency.
DHEC lacks the authority to take over water systems, but once DHEC has exhausted its regulatory remedies, it can ask a judge to appoint a receiver to operate a water system, an agency spokeswoman said. Certainly, DHEC should use all of the tools at its disposable, including asking a judge to intervene when appropriate.
Clean drinking water should be a basic right, and lawmakers should demand water suppliers, whether public or private, measure up to state standards.
In cases where water suppliers repeatedly fail to meet goals for improvement, the Legislature should empower DHEC to hand them over to responsible operators. And the RIA should look at providing incentives for merging small water systems to create more fiscally robust agencies to help finance capital projects that would be impossible otherwise.