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Ongoing coverage of South Carolina's recovery from the flooding of 2015.What had been Lindsay Langdale's Columbia home October 3, 2015 was a flooded ruin the next day.This coverage is made possible by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In October of 2015, South Carolina received rainfall in unprecedented amounts over just a few days time. By the time the rain began to slacken, the National Weather Service reported that the event had dumped more than two feet of water on the state. The U.S. Geological Survey reported that the subsequent flooding was the worst in 75 years.

Smart, Post-Flood Rebuilding Pt. 2

Last October, a school was under construction in northeast Columbia. They weren’t expecting a massive flood, but it didn’t end up destroying their hard work. And that’s thanks to new construction techniques. While in the past, a flood like this would’ve destroyed their work, nowadays, they have methods to make use of the water. Vince Kolb-Lugo speaks with Thompson Turner Director of Construction, Scott Spigner, Richland County Councilman Gregg Pearce, and Gills Creek Watershed Association Board Member Alicia de Myhrer about using new construction techniques and green infrastructure to prepare the county for future floods, address water quality, and improve stormwater management.   

From 1970 to 2015, Richland County’s population grew from about 230,000 to more than 380,000, a 63% increase in the number of residents. It wasn’t even the fastest growing county in South Carolina.

“Richland County at the time I was born consisted of the neighborhood of Shandon,” says Councilman Greg Pearce, “and Heathwood. But Lake Katherine and further out behind the Veterans Hospital were very undeveloped.” Pearce says much of northeast Columbia was farmland. 

Aerial photo of Forest Acres in Richland County, 1938. Today, the land pictured is home to commercial and residential sites.
Credit Images courtesy of University of South Carolina Maps Department / United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service
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United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service
Aerial photo of Forest Acres in Richland County, 1938.

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Richland County Councilman, Greg Pearce, describes Columbia, SC, as it was when he was a young boy.

As the city grew, real estate development moved outward, and one way to enhance property value was to make it waterfront property. By 1970, lakes Katherine, Forest, Arcadia, Carey, Springwood, Windsor, and Upper Windsor covered the creek system. Fast forward to 2015, the lakes were contributing to stormwater management by receiving all the runoff from upriver.

“So we had a time bomb sort of waiting to go off,” says Pearce as he gives a layman’s history of development in the county. He chuckles as he adds, “But you know… who cared.” 

All of the new communities, the businesses that serve them, and the roads that connect them changed the way water flowed the system. 

“What we are finding is that when you pave a lot of surfaces, and we don’t slow down the water…what you have is polluted streams, and high velocity, lots of sediment, lots of suspended solids,” says Richland County Conservation Department directory Quinton Epps. 

pave_surfaces_edit.mp3
Richland County Conservation Department director, Quinton Epps, explains the legacy effect and it's long-term impact to water quality and stormwater management.

The Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 was passed to address water pollution, but later revisions to the law greatly expanded its scope and power to control water contamination, becoming the Clean Water Act we know today. 

Stormwater Management through Green Infrastructure 

Another way of improving water quality is comprehensive stormwater management. According to Flood Loss Avoidance Benefits of Green Infrastructure for Stormwater Management published by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, applying green infrastructure to new development and redevelopment, as well as retrofitting existing sites, can produce significant losses during future events. 

The berm depicted above keeps stormwater runoff from spilling over into the nearby creek. It is one several best management practices (BMPs) applied during construction on elementary school 20 in Richland County school district 2.
Credit Vince Kolb-Lugo/SC Public Radio
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The berm depicted above keeps stormwater runoff from spilling over into the nearby creek. It is one several best management practices (BMPs) applied during construction on elementary school 20 in Richland County school district 2.
Aggregate for what will become pervious concrete surfaces at the new Richland Count Magistrate. Unlike standard concrete, pervious concrete is porous and lets water infiltrate back into the ground rather than pass over top.
Credit Vince Kolb-Lugo/SC Public Radio
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Aggregate for what will become pervious concrete surfaces at the new Richland Count Magistrate. Unlike standard concrete, pervious concrete is porous and lets water infiltrate back into the ground rather than pass over top.

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