Improvements could be coming to aging water systems in rural South Carolina

State - Regional

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) — South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster this week recommended using half a billion dollars in federal relief funds to ‘modernize’ water, wastewater and stormwater systems across the state.

Next year, state lawmakers will divvy up the $2.5 billion South Carolina is receiving from the American Rescue Plan.

The Governor is suggesting sending $500 million of that money to the South Carolina Rural Infrastructure Authority (RIA).

“In rural South Carolina – water and sewer are key to life. The right water and sewer systems in a county can transform a tax base, creating jobs, good schools, and a vibrant community,” said Gov. McMaster. “With this investment of $500 million into rural water, sewer, and stormwater infrastructure, we can ensure that South Carolina will have the workforce, the infrastructure, and the quality of life necessary to compete nationally and globally for jobs and investment – for generations to come.” 

Under the Governor’s proposal, the RIA would administer the money based on economic development, public health, and regionalization.

Systems that are currently not in compliance with state regulations would receive priority, officials said. Most of those are located in rural counties.

Deanna Miller-Berry has been advocating for water system improvements in Bamberg County – specifically in the town of Denmark – for years.

She said if this plan were to come to fruition it’s important to make sure the communities that need it most are helped.

“The key thing is making sure we get these targeted communities, who are at risk and they know who are on their radar, putting those communities front and center,” Miller-Berry said.

Miller-Berry said she is happy to see the issue of clean drinking water, especially in rural South Carolina, getting attention. She is hopeful lawmakers will follow the Governor’s recommendation but there is no reason to stop there.

“Water is not a monopoly,” she said. “It’s something we invest in. We find ways to make it affordable for folks who need it.”

State lawmakers are expected to take up American Rescue Plan funding in January 2022.

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