Water could overtake Sonoco Dam in Darlington County

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HARTSVILLE, SC (WMBF) – Heavy rain from Hurricane Florence flooded the Sonoco paper mill and complex in Hartsville forcing it to cease its operations at that facility.

The company’s Hartsville paper complex has seven machines that push out 420,000 tons of paper a year.

On Tuesday, helicopters circled the Sonoco paper complex to evaluate the impacted areas due to rising levels of water from Prestwood Lake.

Brian Risinger with Sonoco said the property that sits right adjacent to Prestwood Lake started overflowing a few days ago into the property and all the way to the parking lot.

“Obviously it’s been a direct impact on operations where if we’re not running equipment, we’re not producing and that’s in essence what’s happening so again, we’ve had to cease production and may cease production for time to come,” Risnisger said.

For the past 36 hours, Risinger said Sonoco has been releasing excess water from its dam on Black Creek in Hartsville to control flooding in the area.

However, because of the rising water levels from the Black Creek and Duke Energy’s Lake Robinson, Sonoco’s dam has potential to overtop.

“If we can’t release more than what is coming into the water basin than flooding will occur and that’s what we’re seeing now,” Risinger said.

In addition to the complex flooding, this can cause major flooding downstream into Darlington County.

Heber Watson lives on Prestwood Drive with the lake in his backyard. The water was overflowing into his property and onto the streets Tuesday

“What I’m concerned about is the height of the water as for the vents on the side of the house,” Watson said.

Watson explained Monday the water in the lake was down about a foot, but in about an hour and a half it went over the edge of their property.

“It basically went by our property into the road and it searching for a storm drain into Black Creek,” Watson said.

Darlington County officials warned residents Monday night of the potential flooding and advised them to evacuate. Watson said he decided not to leave, but eventually decided to stay at a relative’s house for the night

“I checked the levels several time during the night and this morning – it was worse than yesterday,” Watson said.

So far, Watson said the water damages are small.

“The water has gotten under the house,” Watson said. “I don’t thinks it’s gotten to the wood structure yet, but based on what I’m hearing as they release water, that’s what our concern is at this point.”

Watson grew up in Hartsville and has called Prestwood Drive his home for 15 years. He said he knew the impact of Hurricane Florence would be bad, but never imagine it would cause this much trouble.

“I never thought the lake would run into our property,” Watson said. “I thought we would have excessive rain, but to the extent the lake is actually running into our Prestwood Drive.”

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