COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP/WVOC) - The federal government plans to order the city of Columbia to pay $1.5-million in fines and cleanup costs for sewage spills.
The order follows a four-year investigation.
The city is being fined nearly $500,000 and also must spend $1-million to deal with flooding and to clean parts of three streams flowing into the Broad and Congaree rivers, which have become increasingly popular for canoeing, kayaking and fishing.
City officials say there are plans to improve the sewer system, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says if those don't get underway within two years or aren't carried out as directed, there could be further penalties.
The upgrading could cost $70-million during the next fiscal year alone and the whole project could take a decade or more.
City Manager Teresa Wilson says some of the money is budgeted, but the improvements will mean higher water rates.
The city has been criticized for using money from its water and sewer fund for unrelated projects.