Fred Kissling has lived in the rural, northern Greenville County community of Tigerville for more than 40 years.
In a county that has seen drastic changes and development during that time, Tigerville’s quiet, agrarian lifestyle has been a form of solace for him and others in the community.
But in the past few years, a simmering tension has been building between local residents and Renewable Water Resources (ReWa), the primary wastewater treatment service provider in Greenville County.
The conflict began when ReWa purchased about 75 acres of land off Highway 414, including 50 acres acquired in 2020 through eminent domain.
ReWa promised that its goal was to build a new facility that would only serve to meet the needs of North Greenville University and a subdivision known as Cherokee Valley. The new facility, ReWa stated, would “not be designed to accommodate future growth in the area,” according to Chad Lawson, ReWa’s Director of Communications.
But residents like Kissling argued a new facility would only need a small fraction of that acreage, and questions arose as to whether the new treatment facility would be the first step in developing the area and destroying the rural beauty Kissling and others have come to love.
“It’s a problem, because what I would say is the overwhelming community desire is to just leave this place alone,” Kissling said. “But boy, sometimes it seems that is not well-understood.”
Lawmakers heard those concerns, and this past February, a group that included state Senator Tom Corbin, state Representative Mike Burns, County Councilman Joe Dill and members of the Tigerville Executive Community Committee sent a letter to ReWa asking for clarity on the true purpose of the treatment facility. The letter also asked for assurances that ReWa would meet the community’s “terms of agreement for coexistence.”
On Monday, April 19, lawmakers and North Greenville residents got their answer.
A resolution passed by ReWa’s board agreed to nearly every term outlined in that letter.
Those terms include:
- ReWa will place all recently acquired property south of Highway 414 near the NGU campus in a conservation easement managed by Upstate Forever. Only eight acres or fewer will be used for the new treatment facility.
- ReWa will donate $75,000 annually for five years to Upstate Forever for administrative costs and for programs dedicated to preserving rural nature, environmental integrity and sustainability of the Tigerville community.
- The conservation easement will be publicly recorded and available for public review.
- ReWa’s new treatment facility will be designed and operated with all federal and state environmental laws and regulations per the Environment Protection Agency and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
- ReWa will be responsible for all costs of the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the new treatment facility.
Among those in attendance at a recent meeting with ReWa’s CEO Graham Rich was state Rep. Burns, who is now calling the resolution a “win-win” for both community residents and ReWa.
“I will say things developed a little slower than we would have liked,” Burns said, “but we have gotten to what I hope is the resolution of this situation, at least for now.”
That “slower” resolution Burns described was one of the main factors in driving speculation and uncertainty within the community, according to Jimmy Epting, former President of North Greenville University.
“Lack of communication is what got things off on the wrong foot,” Epting said. “What bothered the community so much was ReWa verbally saying, ‘Oh, it’s not our purpose to expand in that area. We just want to serve North Greenville University and Cherokee Valley.’ But they never communicated things formally or clearly along the way, and that left the community to investigate and find out on our own.”
As the president of NGU for nearly 25 years, Epting was part of the deliberations at the school to upgrade its sewer system just before he retired in 2015. One year later, lawmakers expanded ReWa’s service boundaries to include northern Greenville County.
For community residents like Heather Collins, who with her husband, Travis, owns 340 acres of family farmland right beside the land ReWa acquired, the clarity has been long overdue. Now, she just hopes the resolution means those agreements will be formally implemented.
“I really do want to find a nice coexistence with [ReWa],” Collins said. “I understand [northern] Greenville does need a solution, but it doesn’t need to be at the peril of the existing community.”