Even on the driest of days, John Ogle’s Clover yard is wet. Soaked.
And on rainy days, forget it.
Ogle, 79, a U.S. Navy veteran who is disabled and walks with a cane, who makes it somehow on Social Security and VA benefits and hope, has to have a makeshift plank bridge to get from his driveway to the front door.
The water doesn’t just sit in pools; it runs off down his property on Walnut Street on Clover’s southern edge, behind the long-defunct American Thread textile mill. There are streams of it on the sides, in the front, in the back.
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It looks like a swamp.
“It just won’t drain – it is too much,” Ogle said. “It’s like living in a bathtub, but you can’t unplug it.”
The problem has been going on for years. Even in the drought conditions of recent summers, there was some water. There are at least two pipes that empty into storm drains across the street from his house. That water has to go somewhere, and Ogle sees at least some of it right in his yard. And under his modular mobile home that sits on blocks. Underneath the house, it has never dried out, even during droughts.
“I had to replace all the floors,” said Ogle, retired after a lifetime in construction. “But I can’t afford to move.”
Ogle has lived in the house since 1989, and the water problem has worsened over time. Although there was heavy rain Sunday, it had been dry since. Wednesday neighboring yards were dry but Ogle’s yard was a spiderweb of pooled and running water.
“I’m not blaming anybody – I just want to find out the source of the water and get someone to fix it,” Ogle said.
The problem was so bad two years ago that volunteers dug out part of the flooded area and put up signs that called the area “The Swamp” to try to draw attention to the problem. One family member even called the police to try to get action.
In recent months, state and local officials have looked at the problem. Ogle is not blaming the town of Clover or the state that maintains the roadway. There have been site visits to look at the problem, Ogle said, but it remains unclear who is responsible despite renewed attention.
The home is down the street from the site where a controversial cellphone tower was set to be built until it was voted down by a zoning board last week. That controversy has united neighbors and has brought renewed efforts from neighbors to have the old mill site and other problems nearby looked at by town and state officials.
South Carolina health inspectors earlier this year checked out the mill site and properties including Ogle’s.
Inspectors with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control saw groundwater seeping from the mill hillside that ran across the yards. Some residents had concerns that the runoff water was contaminated, but DHEC found the discoloration was most likely due to iron bacteria, a natural phenomenon that can look a lot like oil, DHEC officials said in February.
DHEC officials continue to test groundwater in the area, and though they have found nothing of concern in samples forwarded to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, all the data have not yet come back.
A neighbor, Elsie Chaney, said it is terrible Ogle has to live in a home with such water problems.
“Nobody should have to cross a bridge to get to their front door,” Chaney said.
Ogle’s niece, Debbie Shelton, has repeatedly complained to town and state officials about the wet conditions at her uncle’s home. She even took pictures of the flooding to the cell tower zoning meeting.
“When my grandparents – his parents – lived there for years there was no problem,” Shelton said. “But it just gets worse and worse. It is not right that he has to live like this.”
Ogle, an underwater dive demolition man in the Navy 60 years ago, has learned to live with the water. But he doesn’t believe he should have to.