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Building boom slowdown allows water system to catch a breath

Wars, election, inflation contribute to developers' decisions


After a building boom that alarmed the rural residents of Laurens County and accelerated the number of water taps being installed for subdivisions, the Laurens County Water and Sewer Commission is seeing “a little slowdown” in houses being built.

Jeff Field, the commission’s executive director, said the trend is seen by utilities elsewhere in the Upstate also, possibly fueled by fears of foreign wars, uncertainty surrounding the 2024 Presidential Election and the effect of cooling inflation on interest rates.

Nevertheless, LCWSC keeps growing - 110 new water taps and 51 new sewer taps installed so far in FY24. 

The short-term growth and the potential long-term trend mean the commission should move forward with a Strategic Plan, Field said. This is a wide-ranging look at the current operations and future needs of the rural water and sewer provider for Laurens County, which generates about half its water at the Lake Greenwood Water Treatment Plant and buys about half from the Greenville Water System.

Part of the Strategic Plan and an accompanying Capital Improvements Plan will be focused on the commission’s 876 miles of its water system. Another part will be the continuing upgrading of the commission’s sewer plant between Joanna and the Newberry County line.

The commission’s board heard just a snippet of that planning at its Oct. 24 meeting.

In the planning stage is a water improvement for Northern Laurens County.

LCWSC is planning a new 1 Million gallon tank and 5.3 miles of 6-inch water lines at its Metric Road site. The project will take about 2 years - August, 2024 - August, 2026, at an estimated cost of $14.3 Million. LCWSC projects generally are financed through a combination of loans/grant from federal and state sources with commission money making up the difference. Laurens County also has kicked in some Capital Projects Sales Tax money and ARPA money (American Rescue Plan Act). 

The commission also is replacing its water tank at the Laurens County Hospital.

Pending Laurens County Council approval of a land swap and Federal Aviation Administration approval of the tank’s height, the $5 Million - $5.5 Million project originating had a 1 Million gallon water tank cost of $2 Million. This project has been about 30% designed.

Two new booster pumps for the area around this tank come in at $9.3 Million. This project is designed to provide more water and fire protection to the Hospital, the Johnson Detention Center, and the Professional Park on Hwy 76 between Clinton and Laurens.

LCWSC is focusing some its resources on Gray Court.

An ISO Parkway sewer project expected to commence in March 2024 comes in at an estimated $4.61 Million, also potentially serving a subdivision planned behind Gray Court-Owings Elementary School.  

The commission also is looking at Clinton for additional water and sewer lines work. Just completed was a major sewer connection on the Hwy 56/Springdale Drive Bypass, at the now-closed Renfro plant. In the future is a Miller’s Fork/Sandy Creek project that could spur even more growth at the Hwy 72 “gateway” from I-26; involved in this project is 800 acres of state “surplus property” at Whitten Center that the State of South Carolina has deeded to the City of Clinton. No master plan for development has been done yet.

Still, LCWSC believes it will need to install 11,000 ft of sewer line in this area, at an estimated cost of $3.8 Million and a timeframe of April, 2024 start to October 2025 conclusion. This will upgrade the connection of this area to the Hwy 76 connection and on to the Clinton-Joanna Wastewater Treatment Plan. There, the commission is projecting the need for a $4.048 Million upgrade to its sludge handling operations.

At its Oct. 24 meeting, the LCWSC board authorized a resolution applying for this money from the SC Water Quality Revolving Fund. Field said LCWSC has done these kinds of loan/grant applications in the past but not in a couple of years.

It is expected that this upgrade will allow LCWSC to comply with future regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency.