Williamston seeking to regain sewer capacity

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By Stan Welch
If all goes as expected at the next Anderson County Council meeting on July 6, Williamston will regain three hundred thousand gallons from the county; a development that will immediately ease the pressure on the town’s wastewater treatment plant. When the county financed the treatment plant years ago, it required the reservation of 300 thousand gallons per day (GPD) for county use. Though the county seldom if ever needed the capacity, the reserve decreased the town’s official available capacity of a million GPD to 700 thousand GPD.
That circumstance has been a thorn in the town’s side for well over a decade, and even lead to the town being put under a SCDHEC consent order, which essentially prohibited any significant growth, either residential or commercial, in the town. Mayor Rockery Burgess reminded The Journal that the problem has persisted through the administrations of five different mayors. “To finally reach a resolution to this matter is huge, especially with the growth that is starting and is expected to continue.”
There will be no actual expansion of the plant required. The capacity has always been there; the town just couldn’t utilize it. The town will purchase the capacity for three hundred thousand dollars, or a dollar per gallon. That is a miniscule amount compared to the cost of actually expanding the plant by the same capacity. “It’s mutually beneficial to both parties, the town and the county. We have made significant improvements to the plant, and the county will benefit obviously from the sale.”
The treatment plant routinely exceeded capacity, especially in the years before substantial repairs were made to the wastewater system. Before large expanses of line were replaced, almost any rain event sent stormwater into leaky lines and on into the treatment plant. Known as ingress and infiltration (I& I), the problem is common in small towns with aged sewer lines. There it was metered as waste water, skewing the figures that DHEC used to impose the consent order.
Burgess, while conceding that the source of the three hundred thousand dollars has yet to be determined, he anticipates using some of the federal stimulus funds that are in the pipeline, to help small towns rebound from the impact of the COVID pandemic. “With the growth that we are looking at, this is one of the best developments the town has seen in some time, especially in terms of infrastructure.”