Charleston leaders look to fix Monrovia Cemetery flooding issues

Charleston leaders look to fix Monrovia Cemetery flooding issues. (WCIV)

After recent floods exposed grave sites at Monrovia Cemetery in Charleston, family members of those exposed sites want answers. That's why many attended a meeting at North Charleston City Hall where representative Wendell Gilliard heard from those impacted by the incident.

"We witness vaults unburied by the rain. Some plots, without names, headstones damaged, some sunken in the ground, others covered by grass and weeds," said Robin Marion, who has several family members buried at the cemetery. "If you weren’t from the area, you would think the Monrovia cemetery was from a horror film."

Others expressed similar outrage as they learned the final physical resting place for their ancestors isn't being maintained like they thought it would.

One of the legal challenges families are facing, Monrovia Cemetery is privately owned, and isn't licenced by the state as a "perpetual care cemetery."

A representative from the state attending the meeting explained that "Perpetual Care Cemeteries" are required to maintain the grounds and grave sites to a certain standard. Cemeteries can be exempt from getting the licence if they are private, government, or church run site, or if they're a nature preserve. Monrovia, being private, falls under that exemption.

Its why Representative Gilliard hopes to make legal changes at the state and local level, as this is a growing problem around the Lowcountry.

"Call your council members, call your mayor, lets get your local code enforcement involved," said Gilliard.

Gilliard wants to create a grave tax. A small fee paid for by developers that would go towards fixing damaged sites in private and family cemeteries all over the state. He also is looking at tightening the laws, meaning more privately run cemeteries would share a greater responsibility in maintaining their properties.

For family members, they just want the flooding and maintenance problems fixed for something they never thought they'd have to worry about.

"We know it’s going to continue to rain. So what can we do. Drainage, can we pump the water out, do we move them?" said Tea-ka Hines, who's mother only recently passed in July. "What type of plan are the developers or the owners of the cemetery going to come up with so that we don’t have, five or ten years down the road, remnants of this or back in this type of meeting again."

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