$12 million in grants go to Clarendon County community for water and sewer improvements

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Published: May. 2, 2023 at 6:55 PM EDT

CLARENDON COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - More than $12 million in grant money is going to a Clarendon County community that has been experiencing contaminated water.

The town of Summerton is receiving the funds through the S.C. Infrastructure Investment Program (SCIIP) and the S.C. Rural Infrastructure Authority (RIA).

These programs are meant to target disadvantaged and growing communities in need of water and sewer improvements.

90 percent of the grant will go toward the areas of Goat Island, Sigfield, North Shore, and Foxboro, according to Summerton mayor Tony Junious.

A feasibility study by the town examined water and sewer systems in these locations before town officials applied for the grant funding, he said.

“The systems in those four areas are very old systems,” Junious said. “Over the years, pretty much what they were doing is fixing and patching along the way to kind of get by. Hopefully, this point here where we’re at now by receiving these grants will one day come around to where we’re able to make the system in a better, efficient way for all of the customers.”

Goat Island, which sits along Lake Marion and Taw Caw Creek, is about nine miles from downtown Summerton. It has been at the center of the water issues in the community.

People who live on Goat Island have complained about contaminated water for years.

Some residents tell WIS that they do not drink it.

Others say that they have been satisfied by recent upgrades to the water system, but more work needs to be done.

“They need to do something,” one woman who lives on Goat Island and requested anonymity to speak candidly about her experience, said. “I mean it couldn’t be much wronger than what they’ve done in the last 10 years so they need to do something.”

Currently, Goat Island, along with Sigfield, North Shore, and Foxboro, has four separate water systems.

This is an unincorporated part of Clarendon County, and the town of Summerton runs its sewer and water systems.

With the funding, which Junious touts as the largest grant the town has ever received, Summerton officials hope to create one new, centralized water system.

“When you think about this issue that has been going on for numerous years, I’m grateful for the fact that we’ve finally got to the point where we’re able to get those funds to fix the issues, not patch the issues, but fix the issues for the customers to where they’re able to get good, quality services for water and sewer out in the area,” Junious said.

In 2021, people who live on Goat Island were under a boil water advisory for several months.

RELATED STORY: Summerton neighborhood under boil order after white sludge and dirt residue found in drinking water

Some residents said they got sick after drinking the contaminated water a few years ago.

When asked about the investment, one woman sounded skeptical.

“I think that’s wonderful, and it’d be great if they would actually do something,” she said. “I mean, we’ve been sitting here all this time and they’re doing nothing.”

She said she does not drink the water, and instead purchases bottled water. She does not bathe in the water, either.

“It’d be nice to be able to take a bath, it’d be nice to be able to take a shower and not worry about the water that you’re showering in,” she said.

Junious said the town council will continue having meetings to discuss the next steps for how to utilize the infrastructure grant money.

He hopes to have the new water system in place in about a year.

The rest of the money will go toward fixing pipes that are more than 100 years old, and also some purchasing new fire hydrants in the town of Summerton to get them in line with guidelines from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

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