York County officials won’t extend Carolina Water Service’s contract to provide water to Lake Wylie and Fort Mill.
“We’re not looking at an extension,” said York County Manager Bill Shanahan.
The decision comes as York County and the state Department of Health and Environmental Control hold a 6 p.m. community meeting Tuesday at Camp Thunderbird in Lake Wylie, to explain the available options to the public and get their feedback.
DHEC has found high levels of lead in the River Hills subdivision in Lake Wylie and the Foxwood neighborhood in Fort Mill served by Carolina Water Service. Lead levels in drinking water have been in the national spotlight since the long-term exposure of Flint, Mich., residents was reported earlier this year.
DHEC is taking action since January’s lead readings but declined to provide specifics.
Without Carolina Water Service to deliver water services, the responsibility for serving the growing lakeside community will have to fall to someone else.
York County is reluctant to take on water services itself. Officials are examining options to provide services to 8,900 residents. Carolina Water Service owns the lines serving Lake Wylie and Fort Mill, as well as being the contracted supplier.
While York County began reconsidering Carolina Water Service’s contract earlier this year, Shanahan said the county is in the “information-gathering” phase and won’t have any definitive plans to offer residents. Carolina Water Service’s service contract with York County ends Jan. 1.
“It’s too soon to say. We have not been directed to see if we can take it over,” Shanahan said. “If we were to, it would be over $20 million in expenditure.”
Jimmy Bagley, who manages Rock Hill’s utility system, will be attending Tuesday’s meeting. The city sells York County much of the water which the county resells to its customers.
“I’ll mainly be there to offer expert advice, while they consider what their options are,” Bagley said. While Rock Hill provides some services to the Fort Mill area the city doesn’t have any water lines connecting to the Lake Wylie community.
Bagley said there was a similar meeting in the Woodforest neighborhood near the Rock Hill/York County Airport about a decade ago. The city and county were considering who should take over utility service to that subdivision.
DHEC officials on Tuesday will “discuss actions taken by the agency to address the detection of lead in drinking water in public water systems,” spokesman Robert Yanity said in an email, and linked to a department webpage advising how to avoid lead exposure bit.ly/1UYC1PP.
Rep. Ralph Norman, R-Rock Hill, whose district covers much of the lake area, has long expressed a public dislike of Carolina Water Service shared by many residents. Many were upset last year when the S.C. Public Service Commission approved a 17 percent rate increase, a 20 percent increase in the per gallon charge on water and a 28 percent to 78 percent increase in sewer rates.
Norman said Carolina Water Service is overpriced and under-maintained and that the “the residents would get rid of them tomorrow. If they had a choice, they would go anywhere else, but they’re locked in.”
Carolina Water Service has said the reason for the lead issues is errors in how water samples were taken for testing. Some of the homeowners did not flush their taps before collecting samples, the utility said.
Carolina Water Service officers could not be reached for comment for this story.