Columbia officials seek solutions for sewer infrastructure

May 9, 2014

sewer materials
Credit FaceMePLS / Flickr

Columbia public works officials are seeking solutions to the city's failing sewer infrastructure. Columbia’s Downtown Leadership Council this week hosted a forum on possible solutions.

The biggest hurdle the city will have to overcome is funding. Brent Gardner is Chair of Columbia’s Downtown Leadership Council. He says he doesn’t think the funding will come from just one source.

“I think there’s going to be a combination of things that really come into play," Gardner said. "We have a list of about 10 or 12 things that we just brainstormed and found in other cities. You know, no one wants to be taxed. No one really likes any of the solutions per se, but I think if we mix them up that actually might be effective.”

Public Works Director John Glascock gave a presentation on the sewer system. He says the central issue behind the failing sewer infrastructure is that rainwater enters the system through cracks. Rainwater takes up capacity in the sewer system, and the sewer pipes are old - the most recent addition sewer main downtown was installed in the 1950s.

Columbia Power and Light Director Tad Johnsen says while the city's water system is in good shape, the electrical system is in need of some upgrades to maintain power to all customers when a substation goes down. The city plans to put a new substation south of town near Rebel Hill Drive, which should increase the capacity of the city's power system.

Alyce Turner, a Columbia resident, says she hopes the private companies building the new facilities will consistently have to help cover part of the cost.

“I think most people are kind of interested in a public/private partnership," Turner said. "It shouldn’t be unusual a developer pays part of the cost based on how much you need.”

The Downtown Leadership Council hopes to have the updates to downtown's infrastructure finished within 18 months. In addition to downtown, several surrounding neighborhoods are in the process of being updated over a five year period.