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County to take up water pact for possible development
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Effingham County commissioners are expected at Tuesday's meeting to delve into how to provide water and sewer service to a potential development off Old Augusta and Chimney roads.

Representatives for the development have broached the county about extending water and sewer lines or installing a well and septic system that eventually would be turned over to the county.

Commissioners voted at their July 15 meeting to table the proposal.

“There are issues that need to be addressed in conjunction with this,” Chairman Wendall Kessler said.

The county previously had drawn plans to extend surface water from the line’s end at the Park of Commerce, running a line down Old Augusta Road to the development. But extending a 16-inch water line to the site could cost $700,000. The expense of putting in a well and tank is expected to be about one-fifth —$150,000 — of extending the water lines.

By putting in a well, the development could be tapping into the county’s groundwater withdrawal allotment. There is capacity in the permit to handle the development’s projected needs, but a state Environmental Protection Division stakeholders group is reviewing future groundwater capacity and uses in the red zone, where groundwater withdrawal has been capped. In Effingham County, the red zone runs along Highway 119. North of the highway, groundwater withdrawal is not capped.

“I am not ready to give up any of our permitted groundwater for this property,” Kessler said at the most recent commissioners’ meeting.

Said Commissioner Steve Mason: “The big problem is giving up that much of the permit.”

Less than 1 percent of the water the county is using comes from its groundwater withdrawal permit. The bulk of it is surface water.

The builders could put in as many as 300 lots on the tract, and initial surveys, soil tests and topographic surveys of the first phase’s 57 acres have been completed, said Doug Morgan of EMC Engineering. Though the final development plan is not finished, lot sizes could range from three-fourths of an acre to three acres. At those sizes, Morgan estimated there would not be 300 homes built and the planned water usage likely would be less than 90,000 gallons per day.

“We’re finishing our field work,” Morgan said. “We’re trying to stay ahead of the game, and this was one of the most important questions we had to have answered.”

Running the water line from the Park of Commerce to the site is about 2.2 miles long and Morgan said there would be sufficient pressure. He ran a model with 300 homes and another development between the Park of Commerce connection and the proposed development.

Going on Old Augusta Road from Highway 21 to Abercorn Road is about the same elevation, he said, but going up to Chimney Road is about 20-foot rise. Morgan added his clients would be willing to connect to a surface water line if one is extended to that location in the future.

The anticipated revenue from surface water line connection fees from the development, once it reaches buildout, is $385,000.

The county, along with the city of Springfield and the Effingham Industrial Development Authority, engineered an agreement that allowed for the IDA’s Interstate 16 tracts to receive up to 150,000 gallons per day. Even with that pact, that also led to Springfield moving its well just north of Highway 119 and out of the red zone, there is enough capacity for the county to serve the potential Chimney Road development, commissioners learned.