In the three decades since South Carolina’s Dorchester County Water & Sewer Department was formed, the agency has steadily unified piecemeal public and private water and sewer systems and wells serving 21,000 sanitary sewer customers and 7,600 water customers in a primarily rural area.

In 2009 that meant taking ownership of a 0.8 mgd wastewater treatment plant from the Town of St. George (pop. 2,100). This month, the department begins operating a $7 million expansion designed to attract industry to the county’s upper portion, an area of high unemployment, by doubling capacity. The plant is now a tertiary treatment facility capable of treating an additional 1 mgd with plans for a reclaimed water system identical to the county’s other wastewater treatment plant.

“This will also allow county residents to work closer to home,” says senior plant manager Randy Blewer. “By providing local jobs we reduce traffic and fuel consumption, and will encourage the young work force to remain and invest in the area.”

Increasing capacity and effluent quality required installing new equipment—like a UV disinfection system that’s replaced the chlorine system and a post-disinfection hydrogen peroxide system to reduce carbonaceous biochemical oxygen demand—as well as replacing much of the original equipment. But the results are worth the investment: solids will go from 8% to 9% to 19% to 22%, which means fewer trips to the landfill.