Fort Mill Times

Water issues focus of April 5 meeting in Lake Wylie


State and county officials are wading deep into all things water, and they want Lake Wylie residents to join them.

A public meeting at 6 p.m. April 5 at Camp Thunderbird will discuss topics ranging from water quality testing to which group should supply water and sewer service to the growing Lake Wylie community.

The meeting stems from several recent water issues, one being testing from Carolina Water Service showing elevated lead levels in its River Hills and Foxwood systems in York County. Subsequent tests revealed acceptable contaminant levels according to federal water quality standards. But the initial testing led state Rep. Ralph Norman to call for a public meeting to look at options for improved water service, which could include York County taking over the system.

“We’ve got to keep the pressure on Carolina Water Service to push for better service and better accountability, which have been dismal in the past,” Norman said.

Norman has been a vocal opponent of Carolina Water, joining residents at public hearings in citing high rates, poor water quality and lacking customer service. The recent results on lead prompted him to bring groups together. Several local organizations are invited, as are the utility and state regulatory groups.

Norman said issues in York County shouldn’t be confused with those in Flint, Mich. where lead in the water supply created a public health crisis. But, he said, work should be done to make water as safe as possible.

“All problems start small,” Norman said.

The reason given for high lead in local tests was lead-based plumbing materials in older homes. Part of the April 5 meeting will be state health officials outlining what residents can do to test their water.

Also, county finance officials will lay out details on how much water the county sells to Carolina Water Service and what impact it could have if the county buys the system. After this year, a contract between the county and utility expires. The county could chose to have an appraisal done on the system and pay Carolina Water that price rather than extending an agreement.

At some point, Norman said, the county operating water and sewer service in areas served by Carolina Water Service makes the most sense.

“Eventually we want to get York County to have the residents buy directly from them,” he said. “With Carolina Water, they have simply not measured up to what they contractually should have, or morally.”

Norman points to Tega Cay, where a series of sewage spills and other issues stirred residents to contact federal, state, county and city leaders asking for the removal of Tega Cay Water Service, like Carolina Water Service a co-subsidiary of Utilities Inc. Eventually Tega Cay purchased the utility and now operates it as a public system. All, Norman said, starting with public outcry.

“Tega Cay got active like this, going to meetings and showing what they had going on,” he said. “I hope to start a movement.”

Earlier this year, county manager Bill Shanahan said York County is looking at options related to Carolina Water Service’s current contract, which ends this year, but it was too early to tell what direction the county will take.

Efforts to obtain comment from the county by press time Friday were unsuccessful.

John Marks: 803-831-8166