JWC Plans Water Plant

JENKINSVILLE – Anticipating future potential growth in western Fairfield County, and in an effort to free themselves from the yoke of Mid County Water, the Jenkinsville Water Company has applied for a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Rural Development Program to help construct a water treatment plant.

In a special meeting with water company shareholders on June 25, Georgiana Graham of HPG Engineering, who is assisting the company with the grant, said that while it was too early in the process to know how much of the nearly $5 million requested the USDA would be willing to fork over, the company qualifies for and has requested the maximum 75 percent in grant funds. The remaining 25 percent ($1.25 million) would have to come from low-interest loans, she said, typically at an approximate 3 percent interest rate.

Graham said the initial cost estimate covers the construction of the plant, the property on which the plant will sit and the equipment to operate the plant. The plant would allow the company to draw a half million gallons a day from the Broad River, she said, with additional water available as demand rises.

Gregrey Ginyard, president of the water company’s board of trustees, said he ultimately hopes to pull as much as a million gallons a day from the river to supplement ground wells and end the company’s reliance on Mid County Water. At one time, Ginyard said, the company was paying as much as $80,000 a year to Mid County for additional water, but with the addition of new wells, that cost has gone down to $7,000 a year. Still, he said, the Jenkinsville Water Company is obligated by contract to buy 100,000 gallons a year from Mid County, whether they used it or not. With their own treatment facility, Ginyard said, it would be possible for Jenkinsville to eventually turn the tables and sell water to Mid County.

Mid County currently buys water from the Town of Winnsboro and sells that to Jenkinsville. Ginyard said Jenkinsville could, with the new treatment plant, potentially sell water to Mid County for less than what Mid County is paying Winnsboro, while also reducing Winnsboro’s need to purchase water from the City of Columbia in order to supply the Blythewood area.

“We’re looking for options to have good, potable drinking water, and if we have growth and businesses that want to come in, we’ll have the infrastructure for them,” Ginyard said. “We all know there’s no growth without infrastructure.”

Graham told shareholders that it could be several months before the USDA brings an offer back to the company, which the board would have to vote to accept. If the board does accept, she said, the project could take as long as four years to complete.

The Town of Winnsboro, meanwhile, has embarked on a similar project. Last April, the Town received a permit from the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to draw up to 8 million gallons a day from the Broad River and pump it back into the Town’s reservoir. The Winnsboro project is estimated to cost as much as $13 million and has a completion date of 2017.

Winnsboro Mayor Roger Gaddy, fielding questions about the project at last month’s intergovernmental meeting, said that if he were a Jenkinsville Water Company customer, he would be concerned with bearing the costs of that company’s plan.

“One of my concerns would be if I were a Jenkinsville Water customer,” Gaddy said during the June 15 meeting, “and they had to put a lot of money in infrastructure, new pump stations, etc., and even if there’s 500 people there, that’s not a whole lot of people to spread the costs over. They may find it cheaper to buy it from us than it is to put in a system. I don’t know. That’s their bailiwick. Whatever works for them is certainly fine.”

But Ginyard told The Voice this week that the Jenkinsville Water Company had approximately 900 customers to date, who he said could support the cost of the low-interest loan.

“If we don’t build it,” Ginyard said, “there’s no way our water rates won’t go up because we’ll have to keep paying Mid County.”