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A group of federal, state and local officials gathered Monday to celebrate the teamwork that has allowed the continued expansion of the Lake Marion Regional Water System.

The officials broke ground on a 10.7-mile water main extension in Dorchester County.

“Thank you for the teamwork, thank you for the commitment to our communities, to our towns,” said Lake Marion Regional Water Agency Chairman Johnnie Wright. He is also chairman of Orangeburg County Council.

“It’s all about teamwork. We all need each other,” he said.

The extension will take water between Harleyville and Ridgeville. Construction begins this month and is scheduled for completion by early 2019.

“This 10.7-mile reach will stretch from the town of Harleyville to Ridgeville into Dorchester County,” said Lt. Col. Jason A. Legro, acting commander for the Charleston District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Dorchester reach project is the sixth water transmission project the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Lake Marion Regional Water Agency and Santee Cooper have collaborated to build since 2008.

The first was the completion of the Lake Marion water treatment plant in 2008. Legro said subsequent projects have pumped water to the towns of Santee, Elloree, Holly Hill and Harleyville.

“With the completion of the Dorchester reach project, 45.4 miles of water pipe will have been constructed, tested, flushed and disinfected, bringing clean drinking water to thousands of residents and hundreds of businesses in both counties,” he said.

There are plans to extend the system farther into the region when federal and local funds become available.

“The Charleston District is proud to partner with the Lake Marion Regional Water Agency and Santee Cooper to provide reliable, clean drinking water to Calhoun, Dorchester, Orangeburg and Berkley counties for both municipal and industrial consumptions,” Legro said. “We’ve enjoyed this partnership for over a decade. The relationship will bring a reliable source of potable water to the portions of five counties and six municipalities.”

Jay Byars, Dorchester County Council chairman said, “This is really an opportunity to start stepping forward into the future.”

“It represents opportunity for over 100,000 people in Calhoun, Orangeburg, Berkeley and Dorchester counties to realize the fruits of some hard labor to be able to get to this point,” Byars said. “It’s a great day in Dorchester County and this is an opportunity where we’re going to be able to provide safe and reliable water for our citizens.”

Byars said the project represents an opportunity for jobs to locate “close to home” in Dorchester County, for a better quality of life and for healthier families.

The project will provide water along Highway 78. That will improve fire protection with the installation of fire hydrants along that line and corridor, Byars said.

“It’s a great day in Dorchester County and we’re looking forward to the future,” Byars said.

Sixth District Congressman James E. Clyburn thanked the many partners who helped with the project over the past 10 years.

Clyburn noted that the availability of clean water will improve the lives of both young and old.

“I’m more interested than anything else in having a healthy workforce,” Clyburn said. “If you have the jobs and people are getting sick because they don’t have safe drinking water, what have you done?”

In addition, he wants to ensure that children in schools have good educational environments.

“I want to make sure that little children can sit in their classrooms in these school buildings and have clean water,” Clyburn said. “I want to make sure that those school buildings have water and sewer.”

He told the other elected officials in attendance to stay focused on economic development but, “it’s much, much better when the people are healthy.”

Jim Brogden, interim president and CEO of Santee Cooper, said the water project will bring on more customers which will lower overall costs.

According to The Post and Courier, the $10 million project will be paid for with $4.66 million from the Army Corps of Engineers, $3 million from the S.C. Rural Infrastructure Authority, $1 million from Santee Cooper, $400,000 from Dorchester County and other matching funds.

The 16- to 20-inch main will be capable of carrying 2 million gallons a day, enough to serve 25,000 people, according to the Post and Courier.

Contact the writer: jmack@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5516.

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Government Reporter

John Mack is a 2016 graduate of Claflin University. He is an Orangeburg native.

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