City of Tybee discusses water, sewage issues

ByMariah Congedo

Published:Sep. 23, 2021 at 5:19 PM EDT

TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WTOC) - Earlier this year, the City of Tybee Island began the first part of a six year plan to replace some their old concrete sewer lines.

While that’s being worked on, residents are thinking to the future and how the island can balance growth and access to clean water.

City Manager Shawn Gillen says one of the biggest concerns residents here raise is what the future holds as far as water usage limits go. Right now, the island only has one water source and with the island’s growing popularity, Gillen says this concern is a valid one although the island hasn’t reached their limit just yet.

“To date we haven’t really come very close to the daily averages that we are limited at. It would take a significant amount of water usage to increase to get us to that limit,” Gillen said.

Gillen says some residents are concerned that the island might reach that limit faster than is expected.

“The most concern is that If we get more and more tourism that that water capacity limit will start to be reached and there is some truth to that,” he said.

Gillen says having more overnight capacity also drives up water usage.

“They’re asking questions like can we restrict the number of STVRs, can we restrict the occupancy levels?”

Gillen says these are all things the council is having discussions about.

Just this month the city implemented a new water rate structure that increases peoples’ monthly bill significantly if they use 10,000 gallons of water or more. This is also to get people to conserve their water.

“We see days where we’re really high water usage and days when we’re low and you can tell when the island is crowded,” Gillen said.

A few years ago, the city attempted a deep well project to create a secondary water source for the island. During construction the well collapsed and has since been wrapped up in lawsuits.

Gillen says some day they could start construction on it again, but in the meantime, they’re making sure their existing water system is working well.

“Making sure the sewer lines have capacity because overtime corrosion and what not builds up on the interior of those pipes and starts to close them up. You have to make sure they’re clear.”

Gillen says the new water/sewer rates will help them generate enough revenue to start doing about $2.5 million per year of infrastructure replacement.

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