Twelve Mile dam demolition starts

CATEECHEE — The demolition of the more than a century old Woodside I dam in Cateechee began Tuesday morning.

U.S. District Judge Ross Anderson Jr. ordered the dam, spanning across Pickens County’s Twelve Mile Creek at the Cateechee Mill, to be demolished five years ago as part of a settlement stemming from the release of hundreds of thousands of pounds of PCBs from the former Sangamo-Weston site in Pickens.
The former Sangamo-Weston Capacitor Plant was found guilty of dumping contaminants in the water, which have flowed downstream into Lake Hartwell, from 1955 to 1977.

Throughout this time period, more than 400,000 pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, were released into the water supply, contaminating certain types of fish, who likely store the carcinogens in their fat, and requiring the posting of health advisories to warn fishermen about the possible dangers associated with eating their catch.

Located approximately one mile downstream, the Woodside II dam is scheduled for demolition later in the year.

With the removal of the dams, Anderson and others are hopeful that the release of non-contaminated, clean water and sediments will flow downstream and cover the contaminated lake bottom.

Schlumberger Technology Corp., which owns the former Sangamo plant and is the company responsible for the environmental clean-up, has already paid $65 million. The removal of both dams is expected to add an additional $22 million to that total.

Originally constructed more than a century ago, between 1895-1896, the Cateechee dam provided hydroelectric power for the Norris Cotton Mill located just below the dam in the creek’s gorge. Colonel D.K. Norris of Central had purchased a tract of 363 acres along the steep banks of the Twelve Mile Creek from the James F. Lay family on June 21, 1895, and construction of the dam and cotton mill began immediately.

It is estimated that the demolition of Woodside Dam I will take about a month, depending on what types of construction materials were used to construct it.

“The dam at Norris Cotton Mill was constructed of rock and cement and did a good job for about 40 years until it burst right in the middle during a huge flood on April 6, 1936,” local historian Jerry Alexander said. “Workmen had selected rock for the dam from surrounding areas along the riverbank (to rebuild the break).”