Here in Columbia, we have some of the best tasting water in the state. Heck, our drinking water was even a semi-finalist in a national taste test on NBC's Today Show in 2007. However, the mechanisms that deliver that water to our homes and businesses and take away untreated sewer are sub-standard at best.
We know that because every other day, it seems, there is a boil water notice for some part of the utility.
For years, the city has been in hot water with the U.S. Government and the state of South Carolina. In 2013, The Department of Justice, EPA, DHEC and the state had to take action against the city because of a large number of sewer overflows, resulting in violations of the Clean Water Act and the South Carolina Pollution Control Act. The voluntary assessment and improvements to the sanitary sewer system are costing upwards of $750 million over 12 years. The city also had to pay nearly $77,000 as a civil penalty.
We understand the need to spend money to improve the city and its services. We're not saying we don't want to arm our police officers or improve what's above the ground. It's what's under the ground that is concerning. As a taxpayer, seeing your money spent on a shiny new fire truck or larger sidewalk or street lighting may give you a sense of responsible use of your taxes. A new sewer pipe, pump station or water line might not give you the same feeling.
The problem is nationwide. This country is falling apart and we need to fix it now.
Columbia's water and sewer infrastructure needs attention. Any surplus that comes from water and sewer bills must go to updating and modernizing the system. No longer should the city move that money to its General Fund.
The Supreme Court recently ruled that statues do not allow that money to be used as a "slush fund."