News Releases

News Releases

DHEC Promotes Dams & Reservoirs Education and Awareness for National Dam Safety Awareness Day

May 31, 2024

COLUMBIA, S.C. ― With more than 2,300 state-regulated dams across the state, the South Carolina Department of Health of and Environmental Control’s (DHEC) Dams & Reservoirs Safety Program plays a critical role in ensuring dam owners keep their structures safe, strong and secure. Dams are an important part of national, state and local infrastructure and are used to impound water for a variety of reasons, such as irrigation, hydroelectricity, recreation, flood control, water supply, and for fish and wildlife.

During Dam Safety Awareness Day, which is recognized annually on May 31, DHEC encourages residents to learn how dams function, are regulated, and should be maintained, as well as dam safety tips, especially for those who own, live or work near dams.  

Dam Safety Awareness Day comes just a few weeks after a partial breach of Lake Wallace Dam in Bennettsville, S.C., where a quick and cooperative response from local and state officials prevented any injury or damage.

“Dam owners are responsible for preserving the structural integrity of their dams, and a key focus of DHEC’s Dams and Reservoirs Safety Program is to make sure individuals understand the responsibilities that come along with being the owner of a dam,” said Jill Stewart, P.E., Director of the Dam Safety and Stormwater Permitting Division. “Our staff perform routine inspections and classification checks on dams, and our inspectors work closely with dam owners to explain any issues that need to be addressed to ensure their dams meet all safety standards.”

During the partial breach of Lake Wallace Dam earlier this month, Sully Blair, the Chairman of the Lake Wallace Authority, was the first to notice the low water level at the lake. He notified the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), which owns the dam, as well as DHEC’s on-call Dam Safety Program Manager and emergency response efforts were immediately triggered.

“While the Lake Wallace Authority isn’t the owner of the dam, Mr. Blair’s observations and subsequent actions are the best possible example of the attentiveness that dam owners and those living or working near dams need to have," Stewart said. “We are greatly appreciative of Mr. Blair’s initial report to SCDNR about the low water levels and the cooperative response by Marlboro County officials, SCDNR, and the South Carolina Department of Transportation. The number one priority in a situation like this is always to protect people.”

After an investigation of the May 6 partial breach, the type of failure that occurred at Lake Wallace Dam was determined to be internal erosion, commonly called “piping failure.” Internal erosion is one of the most common causes of failure among earthen dams, and it can happen without any noticeable indication or surficial sign of soil movement.

An additional focus for DHEC on National Dam Safety Awareness Day is the recognition of Stewart for being recently appointed to the National Dam Safety Review Board where she currently serves as a State Representative Board Member. Stewart was selected due to her subject matter expertise and background knowledge on dams and reservoirs, as the Board advises the Federal Emergency Management Agency on setting national dam safety priorities and considers the effects of national policy issues affecting dam safety. She has been with DHEC's Dam Safety Program, which is part of Environmental Affairs, for eight years.

DHEC Environmental Affairs provides an interactive map of all permitted dams in the state at as well as online resources for dam owners and general information about dam and reservoir safety. Additionally, the 2020 State of the Dams report provides a detailed overview of dams, dam safety, relevant state regulations and an overview of the statewide improvements that were made since the 2015 floods.

The Association of State Dam Safety Officials provides an online Dams 101 resource where dam owners and people who live or work near can find in-depth information, graphics and resources that explain the importance of dams, as well as potential risks associated with them.

Additionally, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains a National Inventory of Dams for the more than 90,000 dams across the country, of which 76% are considered high-hazard dams.

Learn more about the Dams and Reservoirs Safety Program at



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