Tega Cay residents search for water quality fix

jmarks@fortmilltimes.comApril 14, 2013 

— A half dozen Tega Cay residents say they’ll pursue just about any avenue of improving water and sewer service in their neighborhoods. They’re just starting to wonder how many avenues there are left.

Last week the six-member Tega Cay Water Citizen Advisory Council invited the mayor and city manager, along with a York County engineer, to discuss options for improvements. A meeting was set for past press time Monday night with a state health department official. So far, a feasible solution hasn’t presented itself.

“Everywhere you turn your hands are tied,” said Linda Stevenson, group leader.

According to the group, neighbors have reported eight residential system spills and four spills into Lake Wylie so far this year from areas served by Tega Cay Water Service. The city also owns its own water utility in newer areas, Tega Cay Utilities Department. The advisory group organized against and fought a water and sewer rate increase for Tega Cay Water Service, approved by state regulators in February.

Advisory group member Joyce Clark wrote within days of that state Public Service Commission decision asking commissioners for relief.

“We have considered class action suits, starting our own company, getting federal help, asking for guidance from everyone from the EPA to AARP,” she wrote.

They’re asking the Environmental Protection Agency to investigate. They’re asking the state not to permit the company. They’re looking into grants or low-interest loans to raise money for “anything that would eliminate” spills or having to rely on the company, Stevenson said.

And they’re continuing to chronicle problems throughout their neighborhoods so they’ll have something to present decision-makers at whatever point they gain an audience.

“If we just walk away and give up, what do we accomplish?” Stevenson said.

Charles Terreni was chief clerk and administrator of the Public Service Commission from 2004 to 2010. He also served as counsel for Tega Cay Water Service in the recent rate increase case.

He responded to Stevenson’s request for a cost figure to connect company lines with those already owned by the city, with a letter claiming the plan “would be costly and would not eliminate the majority of the infrastructure” causing problems.

Two lift stations would need upgrades beyond those paid for through the latest increase and “thousands of yards, if not miles” of trench would need digging, he wrote, to install force mains. Payments for that work would be passed to customers.

The other option is that the city purchase the company’s infrastructure. Tega Cay Water Service “would entertain any reasonable offer,” Terreni wrote.

“At this point,” City Manager Charlie Funderburk said after meeting with residents, “neither the city nor the county are looking to purchase the system.”

Mayor George Sheppard said he met with residents as a city resident himself once invited, but wasn’t officially representing Tega Cay. Also that his idea was to discuss what options were there to help Tega Cay Water Service customers, not to tie into the Tega Cay Utilities Department system.

Stevenson said last week’s meeting “really didn’t accomplish anything” but that she remained hopeful for the next one Monday night. And for whatever opportunities arise for her group, which at present seem more wish list than planned attack.

“That’s what it seems to be right now,” she said.

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