GRANITEVILLE Graniteville resident Andrew Yaun and others say they hope Aiken County officials will be able to secure federal funding for an overhaul of the towns sewer system.
In recent months, many Graniteville residents have complained about problems with the system since its operator proposed water and sewer rate increases .
Avondale Mills, the systems operator, has said it needs to raise the rates because it can no longer subsidize water usage in the area now that its mills have closed .
But that rate increase, if approved by the South Carolina Public Service Commission on Tuesday , wont come with any improvements to the system, Avondale officials have said.
That has prompted county officials to look into assess ing the sewer system in hopes of securing about $4 million in stimulus money for overhaul work.
The c ounty council recently agreed that it would allow an assessment only if the federal government guaranteed to pay up front or reimburse the county the $322,000 it would cost .
Even if that funding is approved, County Administrator Clay Killian said, a lot still depends on the overall cost.
He said there still could be a problem if the county get s the $4 million because it might have to come up with the remainder if the overhaul exceeds that amount.
He said that the county might also have to temporarily take over ownership of the sewer service if it gets federal funding.
County officials have said that could ultimately mean a rate increase, although there have been no talks about how that would affect rates.
County council members say that the system badly needs repairs and that its just a matter of time before something is done there.
Five weeks ago a sewer line failure of the Avondale Mills system near Ascauga Lake Road caused an unknown amount of sewage to overflow into Horse Creek.
Avondale cleaned up the spill, and it didnt affect household drinking water.
But the public was advised to temporarily avoid contact with water around and downstream from the overflow.
Sooner or later, were going to have to do something, Councilman Willar Hightower Jr. said.
Avondale Mills, which closed its Graniteville plant in 2006, bought the water and sewer system in 1996 from Graniteville Co. It provides water to 616 customers and sewerage to 496 customers. The rates havent changed since 1980.
Mr. Yaun, who say s he has occasional water-pressure problems, said he would be willing to pay a higher fee through the county if improvements are included. After all, he said, hes already facing a rate increase with no planned improvements.
I would love to see the county take it over, he said. Anything anybody done would be better than Avondale.