City official answers criticism of Columbia water system maintenance

Crews repair water main break at Blossom Street and Hilton Street in Columbia on January 4, 2010. / Photo: Mike Woolfolk

Less than a week into 2010, the City of Columbia has suffered two major water main breaks. The most recent happened on Monday, January 4 at Blossom Street and Hilton Street, just off of Harden Street in the Five Points area. The first break happened on New Year's Day near Rosewood Drive and South Assembly Street. The incident forced police to shut down traffic along three major stretches of road and prompted health officials to issue a boil water advisory to area residents.

In recent weeks, the city has also dealt with other water main main breaks and several wastewater overflows which sent raw sewage into various rivers. All of this has some people wondering whether the problems are coincidental, collateral damage from heavy rain or the result of city neglect. Columbia blogger Dave Wilson of "The Pulse of Columbia" blog believes city officials have, over the years, repeatedly shifted money from the water maintenance fund to make up shortfalls in the general fund, leaving the city with an aged and crumbling water system.

However, John Dooley, utilities director for Columbia, disputes Wilson's claims saying the city has spent a lot of money over the years rehabilitating the water system, including in the area where the latest main break occurred. Click on video link to watch the story.