Edisto Beach slowly recovering | News | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | October 20, 2016 5:00 am
Last Updated: October 19, 2016 at 10:57 am
By GEORGE SALSBERRY
The path to returning Edisto Beach to serene coastal town is moving along slowly.
Town Administrator Iris Hill said the beach has electrical service, but in the coming weeks, work crews from South Carolina Electric and Gas will replace a number of utility poles that are tilted because of Hurricane Matthew.
About 90 percent of the town’s water distribution system has been restored, but the town’s well field still has problems that need to be addressed.
The town’s residents who have been able to return to their homes are under a “boil water” order that will remain in effect until the water in the lines has been tested and declared safe.
The beach, she added, is also under a swimming ban issued by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control because of the septic systems that were damaged by the hurricane. DHEC will handle the process of declaring the septic systems safe and lift the swim ban.
The Edisto Beach State Park remains closed. Hill said she has not heard when that might change.
Edisto Beach Mayor Jane Darby said many of the beach’s businesses are open or nearly ready to reopen. Gone, she added, is the curfew the town set as well as the check-points.
However, she added, some areas of the town are have restricted access and extra patrols are on duty.
The debris removal process on the beach, Hill explained, is complicated by which governmental agency owns the roadway.
The majority of the roads, she said, are state roads. The South Carolina Department of Transportation has the responsibility for removing the debris piled up along the state roadways: the vegetation, construction and demolition debris, furnishings, electronics and white goods (appliances) destroyed by the hurricane. The state has its own process and contractors for handling that work.
On the roads owned by the town, Edisto Beach will be using Colleton County’s contractor for debris removal, Ashbritt Environmental Inc.
But the removal of the vegetation debris by Ashbritt will be handled differently on the beach.
In the rest of the county, Ashbritt will collect the vegetation debris from along the roads and move it to collection sites, where it will be chipped and then placed in a landfill.
At Edisto Beach, that process is not as cost effective. Rather than collecting the vegetation, chipping it and hauling to Colleton County’s construction and demolition landfill outside Walterboro, Ashbritt will move the vegetation from the beach to an approved burn site on Edisto Island and burn it.
The construction debris Ashbritt collects on the beach will be trucked to the county’s landfill.
Hill was in Walterboro for the first time in a while Tuesday morning. “I have not been out of Edisto Beach since this happened.”
It was not a day off. Hill came to the meeting room at the Colleton Museum and Farmers Market for a meeting with officials of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to review the process for seeking public assistance from the federal government to help cover the costs of cleanup and repairs to the town’s infrastructure.
Hill joined officials from Colleton County government, Walterboro, the Colleton County School District and other public and non-profit representatives for the information session.
In most cases, the local officials already had a good working knowledge of how to work with FEMA to secure the federal funds. They had a similar session about a year ago when the local officials were dealing with the 1,000-year flooding. They attended a similar session a few years ago when the county was dealing with the damage caused by the massive ice storm.
After the meeting, Hill said, that “probably the largest infrastructure damage we have is the additional erosion on the beach.”
In the days following Hurricane Matthew, town officials had the consulting firm which worked on beach re-nourishment and groin improvement plan that had been in the works, return to do a post-storm survey of the beach.
What they determined was that the beach had lost another 155,000 cubic yards of sand.
“That impacts our re-nourishment project, which was supposed to start in November,” Hill said.
The amount of time the re-nourishment project is delayed, she added, might be lessened “if we can work with FEMA and have them add that additional sand to the previous sand we lost (from last October’s flood) so we can move forward with that project.”
The town was originally scheduled to issue the contracts for the beach re-nourishment and groin improvements last Tuesday. Matthew took that off the table.
“We are still moving forward with the bid for the re-nourishment and groin project, it is just going to be a little bit later,” Hill said. A new pre-bid meeting will have to be scheduled after the additional scope of the project has been determined.
FEMA still has not reimbursed Edisto Beach for the $1.4 million in damage caused by the storm last October.
The immediate goal is to try and protect the beachfront homes located between the 100 and 500 blocks of Palmetto Boulevard.
The South Carolina Department of Transportation and the South Carolina National Guard moved the sand that piled up on Palmetto Boulevard back to the beach. Sand that had piled up in yards has been returned to the beach.
Now, Hill said, the town is employing a construction company to take that sand and build dunes between the shore and the houses to keep those homes protected.
“You have wave action on their pilings, and if any other kind of storm happens between now and the re-nourishment, those houses could be destroyed,” she said.
Darby said with a possible tropical storm building in the Atlantic, the push is on to get the dunes built immediately.
Hill said that five houses on the beach carry red signs declaring them uninhabitable.
That determination was made by the town’s building official, working with a team of architects and engineers from the South Carolina State Guard.
The team “went to every house that appeared to have damage, did an evaluation and put together list of what needed to be corrected from an outside perspective.”
The property owners of the damaged homes will have to work with their insurance companies to determine if the homes will be repaired or razed.
Although Palmetto Boulevard residents had the most damage, Hill said, “There is a lot of damage on Edisto Island. Trees on houses, air conditioners destroyed — there are pockets of destruction throughout the island.”
Darby said “99.5 percent of our residents have been cooperative with all that we‘ve asked of them, we appreciate everyone’s support.” “Thanks to these residents, Edisto has been able to rebound from Matthew so quickly.”
She also offered “a very special thank you to the town council and town employees who have worked tirelessly since Matthew.”