Camp Hall water line could pit county against residents

The Lebanon Fire Department was filled last fall as residents from the rural section of Berkeley County came out to hear about proposed changes to the Camp Hall property.

Development typically follows the path of water and sewer lines, and that has some Berkeley County officials worried about where the pipes serving Camp Hall Industrial Campus will go.

At stake is the rural lifestyle residents of the nearby Lebanon community have enjoyed for decades — a lifestyle that is supposed to be protected by a development agreement the county approved in 2013 covering new manufacturing and industrial projects at the roughly 6,800-acre Camp Hall tract.

The agreement details such things as how roads and traffic will be managed, how big the buffers between new development and existing landowners will be and how the sewer lines will route to the Lower Berkeley treatment plant near the Naval Weapons Station in Goose Creek.

That route “is intended to mitigate the potential for new development in the area by avoiding the installation of new sanitary sewer lines along a route not previously utilized,” the agreement states.

Earlier this month, however, county officials said they might want Camp Hall’s wastewater pipes to travel in an entirely different direction — to the Central Berkeley treatment plant in Moncks Corner.

If that happens, it could breach the development agreement and open the door to further development around Lebanon, according to County Councilman Josh Whitley.

“While we celebrate Volvo in the county, we have changed Lebanon in a lot of ways,” Whitley said during a meeting of council’s water and sanitation committee. “If it goes (to Central Berkeley) through the Lebanon community, it will violate at least the intent as perceived by those people, and they’re probably right in my estimation.”

Swedish automaker Volvo is building its $500 manufacturing site at Camp Hall. Volvo’s wastewater will be routed to the Lower Berkeley facility. It’s the future development that will take place at Camp Hall, such as Volvo suppliers and unrelated manufacturing, that’s in question.

The committee voted to table a decision until Monday, when it meets again before the full council and a public hearing can be held.

Councilman Caldwell Pinckney — who represents the communities adjoining Camp Hall, including Lebanon — said the committee needs more information before it can make a decision. “It appears we are putting the cart before the horse,” he said. “We are shooting in the dark.”

Among the issues is that the Lower Berkeley treatment site is near its capacity of 22.5 million gallons per day, despite an expansion in 2011. The Central Berkeley facility — which opened in September 2014 — is at about 50 percent capacity although it is smaller, handling 3 million gallons per day.

It also would be cheaper to send Camp Hall’s wastewater to Central Berkeley — between $11 million and $15 million compared to $21 million to run the lines to Lower Berkeley. That doesn’t include the millions it would take to expand Lower Berkeley’s capacity and upgrade its pump stations.

“I think the bare minimum, best case scenario going to the lower treatment plant is you’re looking at a minimum of $10 million over any other option at Central Berkeley,” County Attorney John Williams told committee members. “It could be much higher than that.”

And then there’s pressure from other developers.

The builder of Cane Bay Plantation, located along Highway 176, “calls the county and maybe many of you (committee members) quite regularly wanting to get their sewer availability when they need it,” Williams said.

Cane Bay, already home to about 4,300 residents, could house as many as 25,000 people at buildout. Williams said the county is getting ready to install sewer upgrades in the master-planned subdivision, and the size of those upgrades will be dependent on where Camp Hall’s wastewater winds up.

“They are very anxious for us to make a decision,” Williams said of Cane Bay’s developers.

Whitley of County Council said the committee’s integrity will have as little capacity as Lower Berkeley if the wastewater route ultimately violates the 2013 development agreement. “We’ve got to deliver to Lebanon and protect as best we can their way of life ...,” he said.

Lebanon resident Lynn Hoover said she isn’t as concerned about which treatment plant is chosen as she is the route the pipes will take to get there. Hoover, a member of the Berkeley County Planning Commission, said the development agreement explicitly calls for the sewer lines to follow U.S. Interstate 26 away from nearby communities and to the lower treatment plant.

“We’re hoping that the county will abide by that,” Hoover said. “The implications for the community are large.”

Hoover and other Lebanon residents have proposed running the lines down I-26 to the Sheep Island Connector and then along Nexton Parkway to Central Berkeley. Such a route through mostly undeveloped property would help the county avoid right-of-way acquisition costs.

Whitley asked county staff to study whether Camp Hall’s lines could be routed that way so it doesn’t affect existing communities. “I’m not concerned with the price tag at this point,” he said. “My concern is our word and doing what we said we were going to do.”

Note: This story has been corrected to state which treatment plant will receive wastewater from the Volvo facility.

Reach David Wren at 843-937-5550.