FEMA Grants Still Helping Repair Flood-damaged Sewers

May 21, 2018

A freshly buried sewer line parallels Gills Creek in Forest Acres. Some people and agencies are still recovering from the historic flood of October 2015.
Credit Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

The aftermath of the October 2015 flood continues to occupy the business of many people and agencies in South Carolina, such as the East Richland County Public Service District (ERCPSD), which operates the sewer system for a section of the county heavily damaged by the flood.  ERCPSD Deputy Director Ed Schooler said the flood changed the route of the system’s pipes, knocking many right out of the ground. 

Two and a half years later, the system has learned it has been awarded a $1.6 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to replace damaged equipment and temporary sewer lines.  ERCPSD has applied for further aid and hopes to eventually get more than $5 million in federal assistance, according to Director Larry Brazzell, but the process is long, and could take up to five years.  Even though the system’s pump station can handle 16 million gallons a day, when the flood hit, the main pump station was submerged under 30 feet of water, said Brazzell.  However, he saw a silver lining in the disaster. 

The system was going to replace some lines and equipment before the flood, so with the FEMA grants, the system’s customers will get new sewer lines and facilities that will be paid with federal, instead of local, funds.   Brazzell said the office barricaded and sandbagged against the coming flood four feet above anything it had ever faced before, but no one could have anticipated the severity of the historic October flood.  He added that part of the new grant funds will be used to make the sewer’s pump station flood resistant so if this type of event happens again, the district will be even better prepared.