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Scott Morgan / South Carolina Public Radio

The walk out to the dam at Lake Conestee is a short downhill/uphill, past the remains of an old mill that died decades ago. That mill is the reason this dam – 585 feet across, 28 feet tall, and up to 10 feet thick – exists in the first place. It was a power generation system for an Industrial Age business that, like thousands of other dams in the United States, still stands, far beyond its intended lifespan.

What worries Dave Hargett, a retired engineer and co-founder of the Conestee Foundation, is not just that this 128-year-old dam sitting six miles south of Downtown Greenville might break and send a lot of water rushing down the Reedy River. What bothers him most is what is piled up on the north side of the dam’s wall.