Talk is cheap: Fix the sewer spill problems

May 14, 2013 

Last week, a few days after receiving a letter from the head of Tega Cay Water Service regarding sewage spills into Lake Wylie, Tega Cay residents found out it was even worse than they thought.

What was initially believed to be two spills – including one estimated at 100,000 gallons – may actually have been a series of five. As if there could be any good time for a spill, these were particularly unfortunate because soon after, the unusually cool spring temperatures began warming up quickly, making it easier for the noxious bacteria that flowed into the lake to breed. That means the advisory keeping residents from using the lake could last longer than usual.

And what’s Tom Oakley, chief of staff for the CEO of TWS parent company Utilities, Inc., have to say?

“First and most importantly, I want to be clear, we are going to figure out why we continue to have sewer overflows during significant rain events despite two years of work on this issue.”

Step back for a moment and remember this is the company that successfully lobbied the state for a 27 percent increase in sewer fees – and 33 percent for water service – this year. Part of its argument was that it needed the extra revenue to invest in infrastructure upgrades. Yet the company admits that it’s been delivering subpar service for the past few years.

The decision by state regulators to ultimately allow the rate increase takes on a decidedly worse odor after this latest series of spills.

For its part, the state went on record last week demanding that TWS take “immediate steps” to improve water and sewer service to customers.

“The customers of Tega Cay deserve better than what this utility is currently providing,” said Dukes Scott, executive director of the Office of Regulatory Staff.

Where was that attitude when dozens of Tega Cay residents took the time to go to Columbia to rally against the rate increase during the open hearing part of the process? That would have been the time for regulators to stand up for the customers. Instead, they rolled over like the loyal lapdog they’ve been to Utilities, Inc. and TWS the last few times the company has sought higher rates.

We have to hope at least some members of the Public service Commission regret their decision and that all of them remember these spills the next time the utility wants to increase fees.

Talk is cheap. Residents demand action and many have banded together in the Tega Cay Water Citizen Advisory Council. To get involved, email tcwateradvisory@hotmail.com.

Another great Strawberry Festival

The S.C. Strawberry Festival is the reigning champion of S.C. state festivals and don’t be surprised if judges once again bestow that honor on Fort Mill based on this year’s edition, which concluded May 4.

If fewer than the approximately 55,000 who showed up for the festival in 2012 came to jam with Super Berry this year, no doubt the unseasonably cool weather kept some people away. Not only was it chilly that week, especially after dark, but the forecasters were calling for downpours the final two days, which is when the main event is held in Walter Y. Elisha Park. Just the same, scores of smiling families and individuals were entering the park at any given time all day Saturday and left happy.

We haven’t seen any figures yet, but vendors were likely feeling good as well as it seemed most if not all were doing a pretty steady business all weekend.

Congratulations to Fort Mill Mayor Danny Funderburk, Town Manager Dennis Pieper, Assistant Town Manager Joe Cronin, Town Parks Director Brown Simpson and all the residents who volunteered their time to make it a success. The citizens who did so much behind-the-scenes work include Wink Rea, chairman of the Steering Committee, and the more than 30 people who served on the Planning Committee and coordinated the events, attractions and more.

After the town was honored for last year’s S.C. Strawberry Festival, Fort Mill officials remarked that planning the next festival not long after the last one ends is a big part of their success. No doubt. But we hope they all take a well-deserved breather before jumping back in.

Everyone involved with putting on the S.C. Strawberry Festival should feel proud of the platform they’ve built for our town.

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