Mega Site Collision Course

History is about to repeat itself in the form of another S.C. Department of Commerce boondoggle.

The first time this happened was when the S.C. Department of Transportation was designing the route for Interstate 77.

The Commerce Department conceived the idea that an industrial site could be placed along the route if it was moved closer to Winnsboro. That created a lot of excitement in Town, until someone with the technical knowledge investigated the proposed site and found that granite covered the property just a few feet under the soil. That negated the probability of using that property for building because of the excessive cost of the blasting and removing the rock required to establish a viable building site.

History is about to repeat itself if County Council purchases the proposed Mega Site property. Only this time we will have blown taxpayers’ money on an ill-conceived idea, and will then have to invest a lot more in the land to make it usable. If you check a USDA Fairfield County Soils book you will find the topography is very steep and gullied, and the thin sub-soils become solid granite at a shallow depth.

And that is just the start of problems with these tracts of land Council is proposing to invest in.

Another major problem is the availability of water for industrial and domestic use. The closest water source is the Town of Winnsboro water line to Blythewood, and it is insufficient to serve its present users, much less any large industrial process.

If Winnsboro had enough water available, and it doesn’t, it would still require a new larger line to supply any large industry. That line would cost about $12 million to build, and to fully develop the site it would be much more.

The third major problem with the property is the lack of a wastewater disposal water course. Any large industry that uses water for creating a product is likely to need a large wastewater treatment facility, and a river or large stream to dispose of its treated wastewater. There is no river, and only a small creek within 10 miles of the site. To dispose of it locally would require that it be treated to near drinking water quality in order to meet the Federal Water Quality Act standards. Without knowing how much water would be needed, it is impossible to estimate the costs of such a project, but it is probable that it would be in excess of $40 million.

The Department of Commerce makes a vague reference to finding the funding for the development of this property, but that is very unlikely. The first thing an industrial manufacturer will want to know is if there is water and wastewater available.

If $60 million is needed to make this property attractive to an industry, who do you think the Department of Commerce is going to put the pressure on to fund it? You can bet it’s going to be the deep pockets of Fairfield County. With our expected increase in tax dollars from the nuclear plant expansion, every argument is going to be used to put the onus on the County to fund this industrial project.

If you consider the fact that no high-paying industry is going to want to locate here because we don’t have the amenities that companies and employees are attracted to, then where do we go from here?

If Council goes ahead and pays into this scheme and is eventually led to add to the burden of paying for the total project, any “high-paying industry” is going to hire people from Blythewood and Columbia, not Fairfield County. If you need proof of this, just watch where the traffic leaving the SCE&G project goes every afternoon – it’s toward Irmo and Columbia.

One solution to all of this is to look carefully at the Master Plan the County is considering adopting. There are suggestions of attracting industry, but there are also other suggestions for improving the quality of our living environment. In fact, the two are synonymous. But in our case, the chicken has to come before the golden egg.