Lots of rain, but no new Tega Cay sewage spills

jmarks@fortmilltimes.comJune 17, 2013 

— Wet weather of late could be a good sign for one local utility, whose leaders hope their environmental issues are behind them.

Tega Cay Water Service said severe rainfall was largely if not entirely to blame for a number of wastewater overflows this spring. The company promised to better its operations. As significant rains fell in recent weeks, the company believes it’s making progress.

“Obviously, the Tega Cay area has continued to experience heavy rainfall,” said Tom Oakley, chief of staff for parent company Utilities, Inc.’s CEO. “Happy to tell you however, that we have had no incidents.”

At least three sewage backups into homes occurred through March. An April 29 spill at a Marquesas Drive treatment plant released an estimated 100,000 gallons of partially treated wastewater after more than three inches of rain.

A May 6 storm brought five wastewater overflows, the biggest being a 50,000-gallon spill from one of the utility’s treatment plants. According to weather.com, 2.07 inches of rain fell on Tega Cay during that storm.

The rains have continued, but according to the company, the spills haven’t. Through last week Tega Cay already had more than five inches of rain in June, including 1.97 inches June 2 alone and just about the same amount June 5-7.

June 10 brought a flash flood watch, then more than another inch of rain.

“We corrected the sources of significant inflow and infiltration that existed during prior storms and feel like we're in good shape,” Oakley said. “We have flow monitoring in place in four key locations in the collection system so that we can monitor pre- and post-storm flow and that is helping us identify the areas still requiring improvement.”

Oakley called recent rains “a good practice test” for system improvements. Preventative maintenance will continue, he said.

Not all residents are so sold on what’s been done.

An email to the state Public Service Commission shows service trucks at a treatment plant June 7 and questions, “is this what we are always going to see when there is rain?” The emailer didn’t provide her full name.

Linda Stevenson leads a Tega Cay citizens committee that takes incident reports and complaints from neighbors pertaining to the utility, while lobbying elected officials and other groups in various pursuits of improved service. Stevenson sent her own, similar message to the Commission on June 10.

She returned last week from being out of town and said she hasn’t heard of spills or similar problems of late. She did witness service trucks out at problem areas near her home June 7 and 10, she said. Stevenson isn’t prepared to say all issues are behind the utility.

“We certainly still have concerns,” she said. “I’m not sure that they have everything under control.”

Oakley said maintenance and wastewater issues are an ongoing concern for the company and that additional work is planned and being done now. He hopes recent results will provide some assurance to residents.

“Our work is by no means completed and we continue to identify areas for improvement and are implementing those changes as quickly as possible,” Oakley said.

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