Batesburg-Leesville seeks switch to lake for water

tflach@thestate.comMay 26, 2013 

— Batesburg-Leesville is seeking to switch to Lake Murray on its own as the town’s source of drinking water after a partnership to do that with neighboring Saluda County fell apart.

Town leaders hope to build a smaller water plant on a cove northwest of the western Lexington County community in two years.

The push for the $17 million project comes after state environmental officials said that the 17-acre pond on which the town of 5.400 residents has relied for 80 years is no longer suitable.

“We go to the lake, and the town is set forever,” Mayor James Wiszowaty said of Lake Murray, which is estimated to hold 763 billion gallons of water.

The plan for a facility producing up to 4.7 million gallons of water daily — double the current capacity — is similar to the one scrapped this past spring.

Its location would be on a 42-acre tract on Shealy Road near the site of the initial project.

Batesburg-Leesville would be the fourth community to get water from the 47,500-acre lake, joining Columbia, West Columbia and Newberry.

The move comes as town leaders are under pressure from state officials to find a better source of drinking water for 9,300 homes and businesses in the community and two communities nearby.

Officials at the state Department of Health and Environmental Control this spring rated the pond unsatisfactory as a water source.

Batesburg-Leesville needs a new supply that is “safe and reliable,” the DHEC review said. Continued use of the pond is “a serious concern long-term.”

Problems with the pond include the need for water use restrictions during drought and bad taste created by a buildup of leaves at the bottom of the reservoir. In addition, DHEC officials said, some parts of the town’s water distribution network are 80 years old, double what is considered the usable life of equipment.

Facilities now are “not in optimal condition for reliable operation,” DHEC’s report said. Town officials are making improvements after DHEC fined the community $2,000 for lax upkeep. Penalties for that shortcoming are common for many small towns.

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