Facing the prospect of costly upgrades to their wastewater treatment systems, two communities in Georgetown County, S.C., have joined forces with the county and the Georgetown County Water and Sewer District (WSD) to create a regional solution to their problems. The inter-governmental agreement is allowing the partners to improve service, contain costs and enhance economic development.

Georgetown County is situated near Myrtle Beach, on South Carolina's Grand Strand. Over the last few years, the county's population has burgeoned, placing increased demand on wastewater treatment facilities and creating pressure for economic development. As a result, by 1995, officials for WSD (the district, which serves the county, is independent of the county government) had begun examining options for system expansion.

At the same time, Andrews and Georgetown faced their own wastewater dilemmas. Andrews officials were considering costly upgrades to the town's wastewater treatment plant and discharge location in response to new, more stringent environmental regulations imposed by the state's Department of Health and Environmental Control. Meanwhile, Georgetown officials were weighing their options for enlarging the city's treatment capacity and implementing a new treatment method.

Recognizing the opportunity for regional partnership, the four entities formed a study team consisting of utility managers, staff engineers, and elected and appointed officials. Working with Roanoke, Va.-based Hayes, Seay, Mattern & Mattern, the team embarked on a multi-year feasibility study, comparing stand-alone and joint strategies to determine the best means for meeting their wastewater treatment needs.

In 1997, the parties reached consensus on a regional solution. Their agreement established a partnership and divided responsibility for system components. For example, Georgetown will operate and manage treatment services; WSD will operate and manage transmission services for WSD and Andrews; and Georgetown County will handle biosolids/composting services. Each partner will own and operate its internal collection sewer systems.

In addition to establishing community roles, the agreement laid out plans for $27 million in capital improvements. The projects include modifying and expanding the Georgetown treatment plant from 4.5 mgd to 12 mgd; installing 18 miles of transmission mains from Andrews to the treatment plant; constructing three regional pumping stations; and building a 1,000-acre industrial park on Route 152.

Construction of the pipeline and pumping stations is complete. The regional system will be online next spring, when the treatment plant improvements are final.