Bluffton hopeful it has Verdier Cove runoff under control

Town efforts to reduce runoff in Verdier Cove appear to be working in dry weather, but Bluffton engineers say the real test will come with a heavy rain.

Work was completed in September to unclog drainage ditches along U.S. 278, allowing stormwater to take its natural course northward instead of south into the cove, assistant town manager for engineering Bob Fletcher said. Since that work was completed, less runoff has entered the cove, he said.

The cove, an artery of the May River, has at times over the years had a rush of water flowing through it, eroding its banks and adding to pollution in the May River. Residents complained to the town several years ago that runoff from Bluffton Park, Red Cedar Place and Hidden Lakes was eroding the cove, and a 2008 town study confirmed the problem.

The study showed the volume of runoff into the cove increased 130 percent after those developments were built and was lowering salinity levels in the May River, causing bacteria levels to rise.

The runoff was supposed to flow north to the Colleton River, the study said.

Since 2009, engineers have worked piecemeal on a solution, according to Fletcher.

Mayor Lisa Sulka said she was pleased the work has yielded some success.

"It's been five years since the first person came to council to express his concerns, and it's taken a long time," she said. "They've had patience, and we appreciate it. There's been some positive results since that time."

But more work needs to be done, Fletcher said.

Pipes under Red Cedar Street and Bluffton Parkway were installed too high, hindering water from flowing north, he said. Because those are county roads, the town must work with the county to lower the pipes. A town memo in March said discussions were ongoing. This month's update from the engineering department to Town Council said the town is "awaiting response" from the county.

David Kendrick, who lives near the cove, said the real test of the work's success will come after a storm. He said that for years, a stream from a pipe at Bluffton Park has been washing away part of his backyard on its way to the cove. Kendrick said the work to correct the problem has been frustratingly slow.

Fletcher said engineers would continue monitoring the cove several times a week, especially after rains.

So will Kendrick.

"The proof is in the pudding," he said.