Community outrage over a $5,900 price tag has prompted county officials to scale back plans for bringing Greenville city water to Possum Kingdom in Southern Greenville County.
At a public hearing held last week at Beech Springs Tabernacle in Ware Place Councilman Fed Payne and backers of the proposal were blasted by residents angered over the prospect of being forced to pay for a water system many say they can’t afford.
The pipeline work would be paid for under a newly minted state law, the Residential Improvement District Act of 2008, which allows the county to create a special purpose district and assess property owners to pay for improvements that they vote to have; like the water pipeline.
The property owner could pay in a lump sum, or have payments and finance charges spread over a predetermined number of years.
“Don’t get me wrong, I want city water,” said Don McIntyre, a medically retired sheriff’s deputy who lives just a few doors from Beech Springs Tabernacle. “I want the water and I’m willing to pay for it, but I can’t afford what they’re asking.
Payne said he heard what people were saying at the meeting and tentative plans are to cut the pipeline plan back to half of what was proposed.
“That would, essentially, mean half the cost,” Payne said. “We’d run the pipeline down to Holiday Dam Road and the new fire station there and that would be it.”
Getting water that far would be good news for Pam Boiter, who dug a series of wells in a her family’s home place on Cooley Bridge Road only to see the water fail, time and again.
“You can spend many thousands of dollars on wells and still not be guaranteed water,” she said from the kitchen of her neatly kept home just outside of Pelzer. That household has city water.
“My grandmother built a store on the land in 1955 and I never thought I’d leave there,” she said.
But after a series of wells failed and other problems ensued, she lost her home there to foreclosure.
“I understand that the people living there now have to spend over $1,000 a year for water filters to deal with the problem,” she said.
Water is an iffy thing in the rolling hills leading down to the Saluda River along Cooley Bridge Road. It is a community of stark differences between $250,000 homes next door to tattered singlewide trailers.
McIntyre leans back in a comfortable chair on his modest back porch and points to the wide expanse of green field fading away to distant woodlands.
“Who’d want to trade that view?” he asked. “You make tradeoffs to live in a place like this. Most of the people down here realize that.”
He steps into his kitchen and returns with a small jam jar filled with clear, pure water.
“That’s right out of my well,” he said. “The folks who live next door have real problems with their well water. I don’t.”
He regularly has his well water tested by Clemson University.
The geology of the region exacerbates problems stemming from a multi-year drought that sent ground water levels plunging to historic lows.
A 1995 Department of Natural Resources report on groundwater supplies in Greenville County found about 20 percent of wells are large-diameter, shallow and generally low-yielding wells that tap into a saturated zone of saprolite, a weathered rock that is generally rich in clay.
The rest are 6-inch drilled wells that produce their water from a network of bedrock fractures beneath the saprolite. The drilled wells have a median yield of less than 10 gallons per minute.
The low yields historically have limited use of wells as dependable water supplies in the county, H. Lee Mitchell, author of the report wrote.