Explore options for curbing sewage spills

January 20, 2014 

When it rains, it pours. Raw sewage. Right into Lake Wylie.

To the dismay of residents in Tega Cay and the Lake Wylie area, and all of us who enjoy the lake for fishing, swimming and boating, the spills are more frequent than ever. The utility responsible, privately-owned and operated Tega Cay Water Service, said long ago that aging infrastructure is mostly to blame but assured the public that the rates increases it was granted by the state would be used to make upgrades to remedy the problem. Since then, it seems to have gotten worse. Now when it rains, it’s not a question if a pipe or pump will back up and cause sewage to overflow, but when.

How bad has it been?

•  Jan. 11-12, more than 50,000 flowed before the leaks were halted, Tega Cay Water Service reported.

•  Dec. 23 the utility had six spills at more than 178,000 gallons.

•  Dec. 29 three spills let out more than 11,000 gallons.

•  Two more spills Jan. 2 released close to 850 gallons.

With the latest incident, spills total more than 243,000 gallons since Dec. 23.

Residents aren’t the only ones upset. The Fort Mill Times and a citizen advisory group have heard from people in Charlotte and four states asking what can be done to protect the lake. Lately, a movement calling for the city of Tega Cay to take over the utility has been gaining momentum. Tega Cay already runs water and sewer service to newer portions of Tega Cay.

That idea has merit and city officials are exploring options, but expectations should be tempered. Even if the city – or another company – took over TCWS, it does not mean the spills will immediately halt. Whoever is in charge still needs to complete the infrastructure and equipment upgrades. That will take time and money.

However, residents might sleep better knowing that the responsible party is in their community. Certainly, it would be reasonable to expect closer monitoring and faster response times when spills occur. Also, residents who feel frustrated by a lack of influence over TWS would gain a measure of control if the city took over the utility. Angry residents can always register their displeasure in the voting booth.

It’s far from certain if a city takeover of TCWS is viable, but we’re glad it’s an option being explored. If it makes sense to city officials, we’d like to see them pull the trigger as soon as possible.

We know most residents would agree.

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