Still no taps at County work site

It has been a month now since water from the City of Columbia has flowed into Blythewood, relieving the Winnsboro water system of approximately 400,000 gallons a day, and Fairfield County, anxious to complete work on its new industrial park, is getting antsy about commitments it says the Town of Winnsboro made to them regarding water and sewer connections. Critical to the completion of the infrastructure at the new Fairfield Commerce Center, according to a letter dated Aug. 15, is the all-important “willingness to serve” letter, required by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) before County engineers can install water lines.

According to the Aug. 15 letter, sent from County Administrator Phil Hinely to Winnsboro Town manager Don Wood, Town Council voted to approve the “willingness to serve” letter during their April 3 meeting, but has not, to date, provided it to County engineers. Hinely’s letter stresses that the County is not asking for the water to actually be turned on, but only for the letter, which will allow engineers to move forward with the project.

A response to Hinely’s letter from Winnsboro Mayor Roger Gaddy, dated Aug. 27, points out that “the correct title of the DHEC required letter is ‘Willingness and Ability to Serve Letter’.”

“The Town has the willingness to serve,” Gaddy said in his letter, “but is still evaluating its ability to serve and until the Town concludes that it has the ability to serve it would be imprudent to sign documents that would obligate the Town to provide both a supply and a capacity that may be currently unavailable.”

In spite of the Town relieving itself of its Blythewood water commitments, and in spite of the recent heavy rains, the Town’s reservoirs remain low and Winnsboro water customers remain under drought restrictions.

John Fantry, special counsel to the Town of Winnsboro on water and utility matters, said the County’s request would, essentially, consume all of the Town’s existing extra water capacity. Furthermore, he said, were the Town to sign off on a “Willingness and Ability to Serve” letter, in the eyes of DHEC it would be the same as if they turned the taps on.

“We could do that,” Fantry said, “but DHEC would want to see our plans for a new water plant.”

Fantry said the Town’s engineers are reviewing the request to determine exactly how much water the Town can commit to.