The Charleston Water System became a landlord a few months ago, buying three marsh-front homes on James Island for more than $2.1 million, and then renting them back to the owners.

It’s part of a long-range plan that calls for buying every house on Harbor View Circle, so that the water and sewer utility can eventually expand the Plum Island sewage treatment plant, which connects to the small neighborhood off Harbor View Road via a causeway.

Owners of the nearly two dozen homes on Harbor View Circle are just learning of the utility’s plan this week, but it’s a plan an engineering firm laid out for Charleston Water System nearly six years ago.

Kin Hill, CEO of the water system, said homeowners will be offered an attractive deal. The water system will agree to buy their homes at any time during the next 20 years for fair market value, with no real estate commissions, if the owners sign on in the coming months.

Population growth in the Charleston area is driving the need to eventually expand the treatment plant, which serves the Charleston peninsula, Daniel Island, and areas west of the Ashley River.

Charleston Water System is currently undertaking an $186 million project to replace the deep tunnels that carry sewage to the treatment plant. Buying the first three houses convinced the owners to drop a lawsuit that had stalled the project, Hill said.

Read more in Wednesday’s editions of The Post and Courier.