The year didn’t end well for Tega Cay Water Service.
On Dec. 29, the company sent out a public notice following three more sewage spills, and another call not to use the lake “until further notice.”
Those spills came only two days after “no swim” signs were removed following six spills Dec. 23. All three locations from Dec. 29 were repeat offenders from Dec. 23.
“Due to the heavy rains of the last 24 hours,” said Tom Oakley with parent company Utilities Inc. on Dec. 29, “Tega Cay Water Service has experienced sanitary sewer overflows at several locations, some of which have reached Lake Wylie.”
An estimated 10,000 gallons spilled at 1007 Palmyra Drive from a leak lasting almost nine hours. Another 800 gallons came from 2141 Manawa Lane. Both spills began at 8:20 a.m. Dec. 29. At 10:30 a.m., a spill at the city’s wastewater treatment plant No. 3 totaled less than 5,000 gallons. It lasted half an hour.
On Dec. 23, six spills began at 1 a.m., releasing more than 178,000 gallons. Manholes at the Palmyra and Manawa locations, along with one at 2095 Diamond Head Circle, ran for more than 12 hours, releasing more than 3,000 gallons. The No. 3 plant ran until 8 p.m. releasing an estimated 85,000 gallons, as did plant No. 2. A lift station on Point Clear Drive released 5,000 gallons.
The combined estimates for the Dec. 23 and 29 spills comes to more than 190,000 gallons.
In the new year, problems continued. On Jan. 3 the utility reported two more spills from the day prior. A manhole at 16106 Heron Run released an estimated 750 gallons. A storm drain at 16103 Heron Run released less than 100 gallons.
The Tega Cay Water Citizen Advisory Council formed when residents opposed a rate increase for the utility, but the group continues to take complaints and reports from residents as problems occur. The group has a log of dozens of incidents in 2013 where homes, lift stations or treatment plants spilled wastewater.
Linda Stevenson, leader of that group, said she had 112 total complaints in 2013 – including 49 sewer spills and 19 water or boil-water complaints.
“There could be some that they didn’t report,” she said.
The Council got behind a community call for elected officials to do something about the spills. City Council had its staff, despite not owning the utility and its infrastructure, investigate options like buying Tega Cay Water or funding improvements in problem areas.
City Manager Charlie Funderburk said Thursday the city is still doing “due diligence on whether to acquire the Tega Cay Water Service system” and that the recent spills haven’t “deterred us from that path.”
They may have given the city even more incentive, he said.
“If anything, they have helped shed some more light on system conditions after all the work that was done this past summer by Utilities, Inc.,” Funderburk said. “Our team of professionals are looking at this system from every angle. The information they are able to provide to us in the coming months will go a long way towards helping determine what steps the city takes next.”
Funderburk said the city and Utilities Inc. have the same goal of eliminating spills that pollute the lake.
“City Council is taking a very calculated, very controlled approach to this and will ultimately work to make a decision that is in the best interest of the city once they have all the available information in hand,” he said.
The citizen advisory group also has meetings planned to chart a course against the utility. Stevenson said the total gallons reported in the past week are astonishing but that even one gallon would be too many.
“This is our drinking water,” she said. “It’s not just Tega Cay. It’s the whole area.”