Big Impact on Small Communities
MetroConnects is excited to announce it has received $20 million in grant funding from the S.C. Rural Infrastructure Authority (RIA)! The funding was part of an allocation from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, passed in 2021, which is managed by the South Carolina Infrastructure Investment Program (SCIIP). It includes a $10 million Community Impact SCIIP Grant for sewer improvements in the Mills Mill Village and a $10 million Regional Solutions SCIIP Grant for improvements in the Dunean Mill Village. Both grants were designed to impact small and disadvantaged communities. The work in the villages will replace and rehabilitate aging and deteriorating sewer infrastructure that poses significant hazards to public health and the environment.
A Long History of Need
Much of the Mills Mill Village and Dunean Village sewer infrastructure was installed more than 110 years ago. Both systems were constructed with clay pipes that are now cracked and deteriorating, which allows excess stormwater to enter the sewer systems through Inflow and Infiltration (I&I). I&I strains wastewater treatment facilities, and can lead to Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs).
Additionally, many of the sewer lines in the villages lack proper access points or manholes. In some cases, sewer pipes run directly underneath homes, and access points or manholes were constructed in basements, risking SSOs inside the homes. With these grant funds, critical repairs can be made to reduce I&I, minimize SSOs, and ultimately reduce costs for rate-payers as the systems’ functions improve.
The need to improve sewer infrastructure in the Mills Mill and Dunean Mill Villages, among other Greenville communities, was clear as early as 1988 when the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) issued a Consent Order requiring local sewer utilities to identify and eliminate sources of excessive I&I. In December 2021, DHEC closed the consent order as part of the historic consolidation of six sanitary sewer collection systems in Greenville County into the MetroConnects subdistrict.
The SCIPP grants will support the work being done as part of the consolidation effort, said Carol Elliott, general manager of MetroConnects. Winning the grants also demonstrates MetroConnects’ ability to obtain funding that lessens the financial burden of improving infrastructure on ratepayers, she added. “Replacing the wastewater collection systems that serve the historic Mill Village areas, all of which are more than 100 years old and are past their useful life, is our highest priority.”
MetroConnects and ReWa Win Big
The RIA received more than 300 applications requesting more than $2 billion worth of funding. A total of $1.369 billion was ultimately awarded to 200 communities. MetroConnects and its regional partner Renewable Water Resources (ReWa), which handles wastewater treatment for Greenville and other counties, were both awarded $20 million, topped only by Beaufort-Jasper Water and Sewer Authority, which was awarded a total of just more than $24 million.
“I would like to express my sincere gratitude for the remarkable efforts by the RIA’s Executive Director Bonnie Ammons, the RIA staff, and the Board of Directors, as well as our local and state legislators who have worked tirelessly to provide funding for wastewater infrastructure improvements,” Elliott said. “These dollars will provide transformative change for the communities that we serve by protecting the public health, the environment, and our most valuable resource, our water.”
Projects in Progress
MetroConnects has already begun preliminary design and permitting for the Mills Mill and Dunean Mill projects. Money from the SCIIP grants will be available within the next few months and must be spent by Dec. 31, 2026. MetroConnects looks forward to making significant progress on the projects during that time, taking advantage also of an additional $3 million of ARPA funds that were awarded by the Greenville County Council last year.
In addition to the work in the Mills Mill and Dunean areas, MetroConnects will perform similar sewer rehabilitation in the Union Bleachery Mill Village, using $4 million in Congressionally Directed Spending. Work in the historic Gantt and Wade Hampton districts is underway using two $500,000 RIA grants awarded in 2021 and 2022. MetroConnects continues to seek funding at the local, state, and federal levels to complete these necessary sewer infrastructure improvements.