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County, Rincon finally come to agreement on water deal
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After many long months of negotiations, the deal between Effingham County and the city of Rincon for surface water has finally been completed.

Under the terms of the agreement, the county, through its existing pact with Savannah Industrial and Domestic Water, will provide water for Rincon, which faced a state Environmental Protection Division ultimatum to find more sources for water. Talks on the contract between the county and the city dragged on for months before Rincon acceded to the county’s contract submitted earlier this year.

“It’s taken longer than we had hoped or planned,” Rincon Mayor Ken Lee said. “It’s pretty much our only alternative. We’re faced with the situation where we can’t get additional withdrawal. It’s the only option left to us to meet the needs of our citizens.”

Said County Administrator Ed Williams, “They made no bones about it. They felt like they were forced.”

Lee said the water from the county will go to the fast-growing south end of the city, where the Lowe’s and Walgreen’s are planned. Under the contract, the city would get an additional 500,000 gallons a month, though Lee said it will be a while before Rincon reaches that amount.

“Naturally, we’ll have to get all the infrastructure in place,” he said.

The construction of surface water lines to allow the county to provide water to Rincon may be costly.

“As they come back and put more structures up, they are going to pay capital cost recovery fees to us,” county engineer Steve Liotta said. “It is going to cost us quite a lot of money to build surface water lines.”

The contract calls for Rincon to pay the county $900, which is the county’s charge from Savannah for water, and $178 for each equivalent residential unit for capital cost recovery.

“The amount they were given was enough to get them through Dec. 31, 2008,” Liotta said. “In theory, they don’t have to tie on until Jan. 1, 2009.”

But, he said, “We’re not a bank. We can’t loan them money forever. We felt two to three years was a reasonable amount of time.”

Savannah, in its efforts to verify the number of structures in the county being served with its water, has driven around parts of the county to make sure of the numbers.

Rincon is required to submit a report to the county every month on the number of new structures.

“We can verify it physically or we can take their word for it,” Liotta said.

Liotta said Rincon isn’t anxious to open the valves because city officials are unsure of the water pressure promised to their residential and commercial customers.

“They don’t feel they can require them to take lower pressure until they get their booster station,” he said.

Liotta said tests indicate the county is pumping water between 50 and 55 psi.

“The capacity is there,” he said.

While the deal with the county alleviates some of Rincon’s need for water, the city also is asking the EPD for help. It has asked for a well in the lower Floridan aquifer to be permitted to supply the northern end of the city.

“EPD has indicated they are open to that as long as it meets the requirements for the lower aquifer and not damage the upper aquifer,” Lee said.