York begins buying water from Rock Hill

jbecknell@enquirerherald.comNovember 12, 2013 

— After more than a decade of talks about its insufficient and sometimes poor quality water, York has started buying water from Rock Hill, with plans to eventually phase out its water treatment plant.

York City Manager Charles Helms said the city in late October began purchasing 500,000 gallons of water each day from Rock Hill, under an agreement approved by both cities in March 2012.

“It’s up, and it’s running,” he said of the water purchase.

Under the 20-year agreement, York will move toward purchasing during the next seven years all of its water from Rock Hill – about 1.5 million gallons a day, Helms said.

Helms and York Mayor Eddie Lee said the water deal is important because it means residents can count on a reliable, high-quality source of water for the foreseeable future.

“We have to have a dependable water source,” Lee said.

Since the 1950s, York has been getting its water from Lake Caldwell, a small reservoir west of York where the water runs low during droughts, Lee said. In 2002, he said, the city was facing a critical shortage of water, which prompted it to begin exploring other options.

Helms also said York’s water has sometimes been discolored by iron and magnesium, especially in the spring and fall. He said the city’s water treatment plant, built in 1926, was in need of significant updates.

“I think everybody will see a change in the quality of water,” Helms said.

Helms said residents may not notice an immediate change in the water quality, because York is only purchasing some of its water from Rock Hill and is still treating its own water. He also said York isn’t having any issues right now with the quality or color of its water.

However, Helms said they may notice a gradual improvement in water quality and consistency over time, as the city steps up the amount of water it purchases from Rock Hill.

Since the water deal was signed with Rock Hill in 2012, York has been building a $1.5 million pump station and ground storage tank at S.C. 161 and North Shiloh Road, which is needed to move the water.

York is on a higher elevation than Rock Hill, Helms said, so the pump station is necessary to ensure sufficient water pressure.

Helms said the water from Rock Hill is transferred through York County. York County operates a Mount Gallant water pump station, which pumps water to the York station and also to River Hills.

Helms said he does not foresee any immediate changes in water rates paid by York customers. Under the water purchase agreement, Rock Hill agreed to charge York the same rate for water as it charges its own residents – $1.42 per 1,000 gallons.

Jimmy Bagley, Rock Hill’s deputy city manager, said Rock Hill does not have any immediate plans to change its water rates.

Bagley said York residents can expect to receive a more consistent quality of water from Rock Hill, which also sells water to Fort Mill and York County. He said part of the reason for that is the water source.

“We’re pulling water out of Lake Wylie, at one of the deepest points along the lake,” Bagley said. “The water is pretty consistent and it’s a huge lake, so we pretty much know we’re going to get a certain quality of water.”

Bagley also said Rock Hill’s water treatment plant has a capacity of 36 million gallons a day, but right now, it’s only using and selling about 15 million to 16 million gallons of water a day.

Helms said that as York purchases more of its water from Rock Hill and produces less of its own water, it will eventually phase out and tear down its own water treatment plant.

Jennifer Becknell •  803-329-4077

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