Lake Honors Heroes; Major Grant Announced

Fire and Rescue Chief Brandy Nance presents a Hometown Hero award to Jean-Aubry Williamson and her dad, Walt, while Commissioner Terry Littrell
Fire and Rescue Chief Brandy Nance presents a Hometown Hero award to Jean-Aubry Williamson and her dad, Walt, while Commissioner Terry Littrell leads the board and audience in a round of applause.

Lake Waccamaw commissioners had big surprises to share with residents at their monthly meeting on Tuesday night. 

Mayor Matt Wilson announced that the town has been officially notified of a $9.2 million grant from the American Rescue Plan for the Sewer Improvements Project. The money was awarded by the State Water Infrastructure Authority, and the agency has distributed $790 million in grants to local governments statewide.  

“I don’t have to tell you all that this grant is huge for our community, and on behalf of the entire board, I want to thank everyone who had a hand in making it happen including our legislators, our town manager and staff, and our town engineers,” said Wilson. “We appreciate the effort everyone made, and we are very much looking forward to getting the work started.”

The mayor said the board and staff at Town Hall had been working over the last several months to secure the grant, and they were happy to finally “let the cat out of the bag.”

The project will spend the $9,198,450 addressing all facets of the town’s sewer system, both collection and treatment. It will focus on the replacement, repair, and rehabilitation of existing and aging infrastructure from the last 20 to 40 years.  

The plan will include the replacement of deteriorated lines, replacement of eight lift stations, the elevation of another five lift stations above the 100-year floodplain, and to repair and replace up to 50 manhole covers.  

The wastewater treatment plant will receive improvements including the construction of a second aeration basin and clarifier, the replacement of hand-operated valves and slide gates to new automated controls, and the renovation of the existing operations building to include a separate storage space for chemicals.   

Commissioners also gave accolades to two residents who helped save three people’s lives earlier this year.

Walt Williamson and his 8-year-old daughter Jean-Aubrey were honored with Hometown Hero awards. Lake Waccamaw’s most recent drowning on June 4 would have been even more tragic if it were not for the father-daughter duo.  

Williamson said that on the day of the drowning, he and Jean-Aubrey were riding their personal watercraft. He saw two adults and a child in the water signaling for help. They stopped the jet ski, and Williamson jumped in the water to grab the first victim.  

Walt Williamson explains how his daughter Jean-Aubrey navigated the family’s PWC and helped save three people on June 4.

He yelled to his daughter to drive the PWC closer, and he managed to load the two adults onboard. 

Williamson said the jet ski was at capacity, so he tucked the child — who was wearing a life jacket — under his arm and held on to the side as Jean-Aubrey drove them to shallow water.  

“I felt comfortable with it because my mom taught me to swim growing up. I started out blowing bubbles in the water,” said Williamson.  

Both father and daughter received their own awards presented by Lake Waccamaw Fire and Rescue Chief Brandy Nance.

In other business, town leaders updated the Lake’s personnel and procedures policy to allow the more sick leave time, updates to social media policies, and changes to the holiday schedule to allow Town Hall to align with the state holiday schedule.  

Wilson also addressed one resident’s concern about coverage after the Lake Waccamaw Rescue Auxiliary’s contract is terminated in October. 

Wilson asked that folks “stand by,” and he assured the public that “there is more news to come” about emergency services in the area.  

The board took a moment to welcome Chad Smith back to area. Smith was hired two weeks ago as the new Zoning and Code Enforcement officer. He is originally from Lake Waccamaw, and he spoke briefly about his position with his hometown.  

“It’s good to be home,” said Smith.  

Christy Lewis Harrelson recently approached the mayor with a request to use the Elizabeth Brinkley Park walking trail on Sept. 24 for the 15th annual Conquer Chiari Malformation Walk Across America event. Her request was approved unanimously by commissioners.  

The walk was held both live and virtually in 2021, and raised more than $330,000 for research and certified patient programs.

Chiari Malformation is a condition in which the lower part of the brain, called the cerebellar tonsil, herniates down through the skull and into the spinal canal. The herniated tissue blocks the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid. Instead of moving in an easy pulsating movement through the opening, the fluid begins to force its way through, like a water hammer, pushing the tonsils down even farther. The blockage can cause a buildup of fluid in the spinal cord or in the brain.     

Chiari Malformation is not a common disease. The odds of having it are slightly less than one out of every 1,000 people.

If left untreated, it can cause fatal hydrocephalus, a misshapen skull, and mental impairment.

Harrelson was diagnosed with the condition in July 2021 after an MRI confirmed that she was not suffering from symptoms of COVID-19.