GREENWOOD COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) — For more than a century, the Conestee Dam has held back water from Lake Conestee.

According to DHEC, the dam is also holding back hazardous and toxic chemicals.

Studies found that the chemicals were put in the water in the 1800s when nearby businesses and a nearby mill got rid of their waste.

The Conestee Dam is aging, making many concerned that the dam will break and the chemicals will flow downstream into Lake Greenwood.

“If that dam goes, it changes everything,” said Ralph Cushing, who lives on Lake Greenwood and started the Facebook group, Save Lake Greenwood. “It will rush down here to Lake Greenwood basically ruining this beautiful community that we all live in.”

“Who wants to come to a lake that is known for toxic waste that has spilled into it?” asked Annemarie Humm, who also lives on Lake Greenwood.

In the last week, hundreds of people have joined the Facebook group, Save Lake Greenwood. They are raising awareness about the dam and urging state and local leaders to find a solution.

“It will impact everyone who lives near, on, and around the lake,” explained Humm. “Our drinking water will be impacted, possibly toxic, which would be horrible for everyone in this area, both counties. It would also [affect] our economy that is booming from restaurants to the new companies that come here.”

“The cleanup could be billions of dollars,” added Cushing.

Last year, the state secured $3 million to study the dam and come up with a plan. Experts decided the best solution would be to build a new dam 10 feet from the existing one. State Rep. John McCravy said it will cost about $48 million and take three years to build.

“To me, this is an urgent matter,” said McCravy. “I’m treating it as an urgent matter.”

McCravy told 7NEWS he brought this issue to the state house last week and is asking lawmakers to award the $48 million in the upcoming state budget.

“We certainly don’t want any kind of environmental issue in Lake Greenwood,” said McCravy.

The Conestee Nature Preserve provided a statement to 7NEWS. To read the full statement, click here.

The Conestee Dam, which is over 130 years old, has legacy contamination in the sediments of
its lake, and needs to be replaced to ensure those pollutants remain where they are; safely
capped by newer sediment. With $3M in funding in hand and a clear plan to secure all
necessary funds in 2023, Conestee Nature Preserve has a team of consultants and engineers,
a DHEC-appointed trustee, and meets regularly with a regional stakeholder group to share
progress and collaboratively seek solutions.

Erin Knight, Operations Director

To learn more about the group, Save Lake Greenwood, and their efforts click here.