Fairfield County wastewater plant site search continues

WINNSBORO – The issue of the county’s proposed wastewater treatment plant was not on Monday night’s agenda, but it was a topic of conversation during the second public comment session and again during council time

Gary Coats, who lives near Cedar Creek in Richland County, and Ruchelle Gee, a resident of the Center Creek Community, in Fairfield County addressed council, both opposing the plant and the discharge into Cedar Creek. Gee said 1,550 names had been signed on a petition opposing the plant.

While County Administrator Jason Taylor said the county was continuing to look at alternative sites for the wastewater treatment plant, he said the effluent would still have to be discharged into Cedar Creek, no matter the site, unless the county could come up with the money to take it to the Broad River.

Chairman Neil Robinson noted that negative publicity about the Syrup Mill site and the proposed discharge into Cedar Creek that Creek that resulted from comments made during the Jan. 13 council meeting may have caused the landowner of a desirable alternative site to raise the price of that location the next day, putting it out of reach of the county’s purse.

“That happened the day after that meeting,” Robinson said.

In addition, Taylor said the county is looking at space the county already owns in the Commerce Center on Peach Road, but engineers will not have results of its suitability until the end of February, Taylor said. He said the county is also weighing the pros and cons of other sites.

“But some of those sites have other issues associated with getting easements and/or purchasing additional properties for us to get a line to Cedar Creek,” Taylor said. “And, again, Cedar Creek is the option DHEC [Department of Health & Environmental Control] has given us that we can afford. With some of the other properties we’d have to purchase a much larger piece of property that would cost more.”

Coucilman Mikel Trapp warned Center Creek residents from the dias, however, that the county is not looking for other sites.

“That’s not going to happen,” Trapp said. “That’s just a stall tactic. No one’s looking for other property. They’re just going to tell you that to try to wait you out. But it’s not going to happen. And I sympathize with you. When council says they are looking at alternative properties, that’s a bunch of crap. I apologize for council,” he said.

Councilman Bell weighed in on the side of the Cedar Creek citizens, portraying them as lacking resources that are available to the more affluent communities to fight the battle.

“People with a lot of resources get a lot of attention,” Bell said.

County Administrator Jason Taylor said the county is also looking at grant sources.

“We’ve gone to Washington and talked to Congressman Norman, specifically, about this,” Taylor said. “There’s a large grant bill [$1.7 trillion] coming up, for infrastructure, but with everything that’s going on right now, it will be a long time coming. Even to do what we’re doing, the state is giving us a huge infusion of money,” he said.

“As much as we’d love the state to cover the $80 million [to take the discharge to the Broad River], getting $30 million is a stretch. COG

[the Central Midlands Council of Governments]

and the S.C. Department of Commerce are working with us to make it viable at all,” Taylor said.