The Orangeburg Department of Public Utilities is projecting to spend about $8.5 million on capital electric division improvements in the 2023-24 fiscal year.

The utility’s electric division has one new project and four ongoing projects planned for the coming year, according to a 145-page Capital Improvement Projects report.

The $8,461,410 on electric system improvements is out of a total $43,949,435 capital improvement spending plan for the utility. The utility plans to make capital improvements across all its divisions, including natural gas, wastewater, administrative and water.

“Our focus is always maintaining a good-quality level service resiliency, reliability and ongoing investment in our system,” DPU Manager Warren Harley said. “That is how you stay viable.”

A significant portion of the $43.9 million projects will be paid with money from grants and borrowed from the State Revolving Fund.

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The SRF provides low-interest loans for wastewater, drinking water and storm water systems. The program is run by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control and the S.C. Rural Infrastructure Authority, Office of Local Government.

Harley said about $21 million of the money will be borrowed and added to the utilities debt issuance.

The capital improvements include newly funded projects and previously funded ongoing projects. Some DPU projects are done over a period of several years.

Orangeburg City Council gave first reading approval to the plan at its Aug. 1 meeting.

The utility’s fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.

Electric Division projects

Previously approved electric projects

  • Upgrades to the Old Elloree Road substation’s transformer and protective relay.

Total estimated project cost: $12,284,622

Total project spending to date: $6,305,893

Total project cost remaining: $5,978,893

Estimated fiscal year cost: $2,850,000

The station is a hub connection between Dominion Energy and the utility so that all power purchased from Dominion comes through the substation. The upgrade will include an additional 50-megawatt transformer and protection relay devices.

The rebuilt substation is touted as improving the delivery point between the utility’s infrastructure and Dominion to handle increased power capacity, and will serve as a backup to the utility’s industrial substation on Rowesville Road. The upgrade would also prepare the substation to connect renewable energy resources to the utility in the future if need be.

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The primary objective for the project the rest of this year into next will be engineering, land procurement (near Husqvarna) and ordering the new power transformer.

  • Upgrading the Rowesville Road substation from a 50-megavolt to a 150-megavolt station to handle power load at the new Orangeburg “Power Site” industrial property.

Total estimated project cost: $8,400,000

Total project spending to date: $5,551,084

Total project cost remaining: $2,848,916

Estimated fiscal year cost: $2,216,410

The substation and power transformer at the station are also 30 years old.

The utility plans to conduct engineering design and construction of transformer pad to replace the old transformer in the coming fiscal year.

  • The construction of a new substation on Sprinkle Avenue to replace three aging substations.

Total estimated project cost: $9,400,000

Total project spending to date: $4,453,564

Total project cost remaining: $4,946,436

Estimated fiscal year cost: $2,100,000

The new substation will provide the utility greater resiliency and reliability of power.

  • The addition of a 115-kilovolt loop to the substation located off of Galaxy Road near the Orangeburg County/City Industrial Park.

Total estimated project cost: $1,618,809

Total project spending to date: $161,135

Total project cost remaining: $1,475,674

Estimated fiscal year cost: $750,000

The project will enable DPU to tie the substation into its system, giving it more flexibility directing power to it. Currently, the industrial park’s substation is off of a Dominion Energy transmission feed that runs from Orangeburg to Cope. DPU deems the upgrade as needed to handle future power needs.

Design options were being examined.

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New electric project

  • The utility is planning to replace its Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system.

Total estimated project cost: $550,000

Total project spending to date: $5,000

Estimated fiscal year cost: $545,000

The system entails the utility’s electronic field devices and its relay to the utility’s dispatch control center.

The existing SCADA system is 20 years old. Currently the utility’s electric division is in the process of evaluating the system and consulting with utility divisions to better assess their individual needs and requirements as it relates to the system.

The new system is touted by DPU officials as giving the utility more capabilities for its field devices and facilities such as its electrical substations, water-treatment plant, gas border stations, wastewater-treatment plants and weather station units.

Wastewater Division projects

The wastewater division has one new project and one ongoing project planned for the 2023-24 fiscal year.

About $1.5 million will be spent in the division for capital improvements in the 2023-24 fiscal year.

Previously approved wastewater project

The Northwood Estates project

Total estimated project cost: $700,000

Total project spending to date: $25,302

Total project cost remaining: $674,698

Estimated fiscal year cost: $674,698

The utility will replace deteriorated pipe and manholes that cause sanitary sewer overflows and high pump run time during heavy rain events. The project is expected to last one year. The project will be funded through Orangeburg County.

The project will aim to reduce sanitary sewer overflows. The utility plans to apply for RIA grants for further work on the system.

“We have been doing our due diligence to make sure we are being most effective and efficient in fixing the most needful areas,” Harley said. “The next step we will pursue some grants that will allow us to do the next level of repairs.”

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The day the utility took over the system, DPU began working on fixing manholes and upgrading the system as much as possible to help eliminate some of the most pronounced problems of groundwater infiltration into their water system.

In the past, the water was sent to DPU through a meter and billed to Midlands Utilities and DPU was compensated for it.

“We want to mitigate that as much as we can. It is no longer paid for. It is embedded into the overall cost of doing business for the customer,” DPU spokesman Randy Etters said.

“It behooves us to get that down on our side to make sure we don’t have to eat any more of that cost,” Harley said.

New wastewater project

  • Upgrading wastewater lines on Hodges Drive

Total estimated project cost: $800,000

Total project spending to date: $0

Total project cost remaining: $800,000

Estimated fiscal year cost: $800,000

The utility plans to upgrade its wastewater lines on Hodges Drive through a S.C. Rural Infrastructure Authority grant.

The utility received $500,000 from the RIA with plans to apply for additional funding to offset construction costs. The amount of the project that is done will be contingent upon the grant funding received.

The utility will replace deteriorated pipe and manholes that cause sanitary sewer overflows and high pump run time during heavy rain events.

The project will aim to reduce sanitary sewer overflows. The utility plans to apply for RIA grants in order to maximize the area to be replaced using PVC pipe and pre-cast concrete manholes.

Gas Division projects

The utility has one ongoing project and one new project in which monies will be spent in the 2023-24 fiscal year budget in the natural gas division.

About $1.4 million will be spent in the division for capital improvements in 2023-24.

New gas project

  • The replacement of the Cannon Bridge Road gas system

Total estimated project cost: $750,000

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Total project spending to date: $0

Total project cost remaining: $750,000

Estimated fiscal year cost: $750,000

The utility will replace the original 1954 gas system on Cannon Bridge Road. The section identified is near the intersection of Riley Road.

About 5,700 feet of 10-inch steel gas main will be replaced with a 12-inch-high, density polyethylene pipe. The piping will pave the way for future growth.

Previously approved gas project

  • Relocation of about 1,650 feet of gas lines as part of the U.S. Highway 301 bridge replacement over the North Fork of the Edisto River.

Total estimated project cost: $2,586,819

Total project spending to date: $794,051

Total project cost remaining: $1,792,768

Estimated fiscal year cost: $611,819

The purpose of the project is to replace the 8-inch steel gas main attached to the current bridge. The existing pipe is part of DPU’s original 1954 system.

The project is expected to take about six months to complete.

Administrative Division projects

The utility has one ongoing project and one new project in which monies will be spent in the 2023-24 fiscal year budget.

About $578,188 will be spent in the division for capital improvements in the 2023-24 fiscal year.

The projects include:

New administrative project

  • DPU’s main office roof at 1016 Russell St. is scheduled to be replaced.

Total estimated project cost: $400,000

Total project spending to date: $21,812

Total project cost remaining: $378,188

Estimated fiscal year cost: $378,188

The roof on the main office was repaired in 1987 due to original roof deficiencies.

The current roof is approaching 40 years old.

The total cost to replace the roof would be about $400,000, with about $378,188 of that left to be spent. The permitting and bidding process will begin in the late summer or early fall of this year. The roof replacement is expected to take a half year to a year to complete.

Previously approved administrative project

  • A $250,000 cyber security assessment project.

Total estimated project cost: $250,000

Total project spending to date: $0

Total project cost remaining: $250,000

Estimated fiscal year cost: $200,000

The project will examine the system’s weaknesses with a plan to mitigate deficiencies. The project will take about a year to complete.

Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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