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Soon-to-be-acquired York County water utility looking to start new project ... in York County

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FILE - Lake Wylie

Blue Granite Water is looking to start a new water and sewer project in Lake Wylie. That’s notable for two reasons.

One reason is that York County is about to acquire Blue Granite through condemnation, after many months of negotiations and a history of complaints about high water bills from many of the utility’s 4,000 customers in the northern end of York County.

The second reason is that Blue Granite is asking the state Public Services Commission to waive any public hearing on the new project – something that caught the attention of U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman (R-5th), whose office has fielded calls about Blue Granite for at least three years. Norman Thursday filed a formal letter with the PSC questioning why Blue Granite wants to build without public input.

“I am not asking [PSC] to deny Blue Granite’s request for approval without proper cause,” Norman wrote. “However, given that the taxpayers will be paying $36 million to acquire Blue Granite’s soon-to-be-condemned system in Lake Wylie, I find it curious that this company now seeks to forego public notice on a new endeavor in that same area.”

In an email response to South Carolina Public Radio, Blue Granite said: “We are seeking a waiver because it is new construction, there are no current customers, and as a result, no one to specifically ‘notice.’”

The utility will continue operating the water system that the county will acquire until the deal is finalized – which is expected to happen upon third reading of the ordinance at the next York County Council meeting in October, according to Greg Suskin, spokesperson for York County. The County Council has unanimously approved the acquisition on both the first and second readings.

York County officials have previously stated that the approximately 4,000 Blue Granite customers it will acquire should expect a roughly $50-per-month surcharge to help pay for the deal, but that customers should also expect their monthly bills to drop enough for that surcharge to be at least partially offset.

Blue Granite said in its statement that it is “disappointed in York County’s decision to acquire our Lake Wylie system via the exercise of eminent domain,” but will “remain committed to providing excellent service to our South Carolina customers and continuing to invest in the systems that provide them with safe, reliable water and wastewater services. It is our intent to follow all of the processes required to make this transition seamless to our current Lake Wylie customers.”

The next York County Council meeting is scheduled for Oct. 3.

Scott Morgan is the Upstate multimedia reporter for South Carolina Public Radio, based in Rock Hill. He cut his teeth as a newspaper reporter and editor in New Jersey before finding a home in public radio in Texas. Scott joined South Carolina Public Radio in March of 2019. His work has appeared in numerous national and regional publications as well as on NPR and MSNBC. He's won numerous state, regional, and national awards for his work including a national Edward R. Murrow.