Town of Irmo officials consider buying sewage utility from Blue Granite

Updated: Mar. 16, 2021 at 12:07 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Sewer rates in the Town of Irmo went up to a fixed rate of $85, set by the Public Service Commission.

Now, the Town of Irmo is taking a look at severing ties with Blue Granite Water Company and maintaining the sewer system on their own.

Irmo Mayor Barry Walker says residents on a fixed income need a volumetric rate, which would calculate sewage rates based on how much water residents use, instead of one set rate for the entire area.

“That’s great for the big family with lots of kids,” Walker said. “But Grandma Susie over here that has a $20 water bill, she has an $85 sewer bill.”

Blue Granite officials say companies don’t have the capability to simply switch to volumetric rates unless they are in control of both the sewer and water utilities. In the Irmo area, Blue Granite only has control of the sewer.

“The ideal situation is to sell the system to the Town of Irmo, and let us work it,” Walker said. “We have relationships built up with all the providers that they have, and we can run it just as well as they can, the only difference is we don’t need to make a profit. We can just sustain the system.”

At Tuesday night’s town council meeting, Walker says they’ll look into paying for a feasibility study, to help figure out just how much it may cost the town to take over the sewer system and run it on their own.

“We have to know, how much is it worth?” Walker said. “What is it going to cost for us to take it over and maintain it? We don’t know that. We’re politicians, we’re not water and sewer experts. So we have to pay somebody to look at the system, tell us what Blue Granite is spending, what they’re anticipated to spend, and how much this system is worth.”

Walker says that the study would cost around $30,000.

Officials from Blue Granite say they have a multi-year, multi-million dollar plan to address design flaws in Irmo neighborhoods and aging infrastructure issues. They say, no matter who is in charge of water and sewer, these costs would have to be covered.

“We can get bonds, we can get grants, we can go to Washington D.C., and get money for that, and that’s what we’ll do if it gets to that point,” Walker said.

Officials from Blue Granite say they have nearly 4,000 connections in the Friarsgate community, a count which includes both households and businesses.

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