Rate increases coming to pay for city water improvements - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Rate increases coming to pay for city water improvements

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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

Over the next several years, it could cost you more every time you flush a toilet in the city of Columbia. Regular leaks of the city's sewer system are set to cost the city plenty in improvements.

"Seventy million dollars over the next year, but we're programmed to spend $100 million a year over the next five years and probably more than that," said City Manager Teresa Wilson.

Where will that money come from for upgrades to more than 1,100 miles of sewer lines and improvements to the Waster Water treatment plant? From you, in the form of a rate increase.

"Realistically speaking, the amount of work that has to be done we'll have to; there will be some rate increases," said Wilson.

It's all part of a consent decree finally reached with the EPA in the works since 2009 after sewer spills and waste water dumped into the city's Broad and Congaree Rivers.  

"It's not acceptable and going forward, there's going to be stiffer penalties for those overflows and we've got to work to fix them," said Congaree Riverkeeper Bill Stangler.

Stangler says the agreement holds the city's feet to the fire to keep making improvements.

"It sets a timeline for when things have to be done and it puts in place a mechanism in which to enforce that setting up fines and penalties if the city doesn't meet those times lines," said Stangler.

The work will start slowly. The deadlines take effect once the agreement is entered with the courts.

"Once those areas are identified, we will obviously hit the highest priorities first and so you may see us bouncing around our entire service area with small areas that will be replaced, and repaired and rehabbed during that time," said Columbia waste water engineer Bill Davis.

The plans are all geared toward making the water cleaner for everyone.

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