Working with a sewer system dating back to 1925, the City of Liberty found itself trying to maintain 90-year-old sewer lines that were missing the bottom portion of the pipe at a major intersection in the city’s downtown area.
For residents in the Town of Jonesville, daily water line flushing was not adequately addressing the discolored, odorous and poor tasting water that was flowing from their faucets.
In the City of Bishopville’s Mohawk neighborhood, customers were experiencing raw sewage spilling onto their property from 50-year-old sewer lines.
Such examples highlight how aging water and sewer infrastructure present challenges to municipalities around the state. On a daily basis, South Carolina cities and towns struggle with ruptured mains, sanitary sewer overflows, collapsed lines and low pressure. These system issues can be costly and result in disruptions in service for both residents and businesses.
It’s easy to make the argument in favor of upgrades. It’s much harder to pay for those upgrades.
Improvements to water and sewer infrastructure can have significant economic and environmental benefits. Modern and efficient infrastructure with growth capacity can boost economic opportunities for a community.
Likewise, meeting environmental standards ensures safe drinking water for all residents and provides reliability for area businesses.
Towns and cities struggle to allocate the funds to upgrade aging systems that are in constant use and often demand constant repair. According to the 2016 American Water Works Association’s State of the Water Industry report, 38 percent of survey respondents, including utility workers, “think they will struggle to cover the full cost of providing services.” These services include renewal and replacement in addition to the expansion of services.
The S.C. Rural Infrastructure Authority can help. RIA’s grant program gives cities and towns like Bishopville, Jonesville and Liberty the chance to address their immediate needs while allowing limited local resources to be used to further invest in other parts of their water or sewer system.
“RIA grant funding helped us with an area where we had been getting a lot of calls about the water,” said Jonesville Mayor Ernest Moore. “Nearly 12 months after the award, the project is already complete, residents are pleased with the improved water quality, and we can turn our attention to other parts of the system.”
The RIA’s Basic and Economic Infrastructure grant programs are intended to increase community sustainability, improve the quality of life and create opportunities for economic impact.
RIA accepts grant applications in March and September and holds a workshop every July to review program guidelines for the new fiscal year. To learn more, visit ria.sc.gov.