Water authority votes to send wastewater to Broad River

Commission members Kyle Crager, Don Prioleau, Laura Johnson, Patti Davis (clerk), John McMeekin (chair), Doug Pauley (vice chair), Jason Taylor, and Robert Arnt (not pictured)

WINNSBORO – After almost three years of political back-and-forth over whether to discharge a proposed wastewater treatment plant into nearby Cedar Creek or into a distant location on the Broad River, the vote took little more than a few seconds of a less-than four-minute meeting.

Just moments after the meeting convened on July 25, 2023, Winnsboro Mayor John McMeekin, Chairman of the Fairfield Joint Water and Sewer System Commission (JWSSC), called the question as to the direction the engineer (Bill Bingham of American Engineering) should take regarding a wastewater treatment plant discharge location.

The vote was 6 to 1, with no discussion, to go to the Broad.

The Commission had been divided, but Kyle Crager, an engineer with 20 years of experience with wastewater treatment plants, was the only dissenting vote.

The tide may have turned towards the Broad River at a previous May meeting of the JWSSC’s technical committee when both County Council Chair Douglas Pauley and interim administrator for the county, Laura Johnson, both spoke out against a suggestion from the technical committee to have a blind review of the numbers in a comparison report presented by Bingham on the two discharge options which favored the Broad.

At that meeting, Crager, who chaired the committee, suggested that some of Bingham’s numbers appeared biased toward the Broad. That report concluded there was hardly any difference in cost and time between discharging into Cedar Creek and discharging into the Broad.

Pauley and Johnson said at that meeting they were not in favor of funding the blind review that could have cost between $25,000 and $50,000, according to Crager. Both said they supported Bingham’s report to move forward to the Broad.

At the next county council meeting, council backed Pauley’s and Johnson’s support of Bingham’s report and voted 7-0 to affirm their confidence in his numbers. The vote also carried a recommendation for the JWSSC to vote to go to the Broad.

In July, SC Department of Commerce met with county, town and the JWSSC. 

“The Department of Commerce officials have given us two years from June 15, 2023 to complete the project – no more – or we could lose a $10 million SCIIP grant that was awarded to the JWSSC to build a line from the Winnsboro water plant down Highway 321 S to Peach Road,” McMeekin said.

That line would be necessary whether the discharge is sent to Cedar Creek or to the Broad, said Winnsboro Town Manager Jason Taylor who is also a member of the JWSSC.

Another necessary line will need to be constructed from the Highway 321/Peach Road intersection, east to I-77. The county will cover the approximately $10 million cost of that line. According to a map prepared by Bingham, it will take another 14 miles to get to the Broad.

Taylor, who has questioned whether the county can afford going to the Broad, said – following the July 25 vote – that he is looking forward to getting started and getting the lines in the ground.

 “It will be a good thing, regardless, and that’s what we’re concentrating on, getting the lines in the ground to serve and open our territory. I’m also looking forward to the preliminary engineering report (PER) being finished, getting the bids collected and the construction started.

“That’s just it. I’m anxious to move forward,” he said.

That PER report is also being done by Bingham, who told the JWSSC that he has built hundreds of wastewater plants and that he sees no problem getting a plant and lines completed to the Broad within the two-year time limit with a budget of approximately $47 million.

According to reports from council and the JWSSC, the lines – when completed – will be owned by the JWSS Commission, but will be operated and maintained by the Town of Winnsboro. The County will guarantee payments to the Town for operating and maintaining the lines.

“The next step,” Taylor said, “is the signing of a three-party cost-sharing contract between the County and the Town of Winnsboro confirming this.”

McMeekin said the costs for operation and maintenance will be based on SC DHEC guidelines to operate and maintain the lines with pump stations and associated power, flushing, and other factors.

That cost-sharing agreement is in the works, but has not yet been hammered out.

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