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City council concerned about plumbing repair costs for homeowners

Columbia Water presented costs to move forward with the Clean Water plan.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Columbia City Council got an update Tuesday on the status of their efforts to improve clean water and learned there is a setback that could delay the project.

Columbia Water presented the latest out of the agency's clean water project. It's an ongoing effort to improve water quality by targeting the wastewater system.

“We’re finding problems while we’re out there. And typically, those problems are on the city-owned portion of the sewer system and so we can fix them.”

With this update to Columbia council members, the agency said it's been able to narrow down the problem areas in the city, and some are not under the city's direct control.

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“Occasionally, we find those problems on the private side.”

According to the presentation, this on private property where homeowners manage the sewage and plumbing on their properties. But there's a minor setback. How will homeowners pay for repairs on private property?

Columbia Water says homeowners have not responded well when they've set them a notice to make the necessary fixes to their system.

"Yes, it is expensive. Any plumber nowadays is difficult to get and is expensive. I would ballpark it somewhere between $2,000 and $4,000. So, it's not a small expense."

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Councilman Edward McDowell says while the sewage problem impacts many, it may negatively impact homeowners who can't afford this change at all.

“How do you do that? How do you finance that? Is there assistance?" McDowell asked. "One of the things I am interested in making sure ... that while there are residents that could assume those expenses there are residents that can’t.”

Columbia Water plans to make large improvements over the next four to five decades and the first step is private sewage repairs.

So far, the agency sent two notifications to homeowners. It will be sending a third later this year.

Council will continue the discussion about how low-income homeowners will pay for sewage repairs.

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