Fort Mill Times

Another 500 gallons of sewage spills into Lake Wylie; Heavy rains blamed

A no-swim advisory remains in place following multiple sewage spills in Tega Cay, one estimated by Tega Cay Water Service to be 100,000 gallons.

The utility issued a public notice April 29 saying a wastewater treatment plant off of Marquesas Drive released “approximately 100,000 gallons of partially treated wastewater” after a rainfall of more than three inches. The company listed heavy rainfall as the reason. The incident occurred from midnight until 9 a.m. that same day.

“The wastewater then flowed into an adjacent storm drain that empties into the cove,” read the company notice. “We are issuing a no-swimming advisory for the cove of Lake Wylie that is bordered by Marquesas Avenue and Palmyra Drive and are posting no-swimming signs in that area.”

Bacteria samples have been collected daily and will be until they indicate normal levels. The state Department of Health and Environmental Control will determine when to lift the swim advisory.

“The no-swimming advisory is still in place,” DHEC spokesperson Lindsey Evans said just before noon Monday.

Heavy rains this past weekend also created problems.

Tom Oakley, spokesperson for parent company Utilities, Inc., sent an email to the Fort Mill Times just after 3 p.m. Monday detailing issues the past 12 hours.

“Our staff has been out since early this morning in response high level alarms,” he wrote. “Flow shot up in a very short time indicating there is storm water coming into the system.”

Staff, contractors and a consulting engineer spent time on-site Monday at two treatment plants. As of press time, spill volume hadn’t been identified. There was a spill at the lift station on the end of Point Clear Drive during the weekend estimated at 500 gallons.

Stephen White lives near the cove where the 100,000-gallon spill occurred. He watched two tanker trucks working at the site most of that day. White says he’s frustrated that the same cove has seen multiple spills.

“They keep blaming the rain, the rain, the rain,” White said. “But you don’t hear that when it rains on the plants on Mountain Island (Lake) or Lake Norman.”

Unlike spills earlier in the year or late last year, warm weather in recent weeks means the no swim advisory this time is a major issue, White said prior to this past weekend’s cold.

“It’s a heck of a lot of young children who are already swimming in the coves down there,” he said.

Earlier this year, the utility received permission from state regulators to increase consumer rates by 33 percent for water service and 27 percent for sewer service.

The Tega Cay Water Citizen Advisory Council was set up to negotiate with or petition the utility for service improvements. In recent months, in addition to fighting a rate increase request that state regulators ultimately approved, resident members have been tracking wastewater overflows from company lines.

According to the group, the 100,000-gallon spill was the fifth overall spill this year and third at the same location.

Oakley said Tega Cay Water Service continues to test its system and repair problems when they’re identified.

“We’ve indicated that our efforts were not complete, that our goal is zero [overflows], but until we get there the assumption is that there are additional deficiencies in our facilities that need to be located and fixed,” Oakley said.

A corrective action plan, approved by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control in February, is ongoing. Oakley said residents can help when incidents occur, mainly by contacting the company directly and quickly.

“Their first step should be to contact us directly,” he said. “We can’t remedy things as quickly if customers don’t let us know. Should they feel it necessary to contact others, we would ask that they do that after contacting our folks first.”