Sewer overload listed as one reason for downtown housing freeze

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COLUMBIA - Officials say issues with sewer overload was one reason for the freeze on new new housing developments in the downtown area. 

City Community Relations Director Steven Sapp said the city staff is required to do sufficiency tests in order to determine if the infrastructure in an area can handle a new development. He said the city goes uses a "stoplight" display," which categorizes a development as well within capacity for an area as green, a development that is right at capacity limit as yellow, and developments that exceed an areas capacity is marked as red. 

Sapp said that developments may not exceed capacity and be labeled "red," but the addition of more housing complexes on the downtown sewer system could cause strain during wet weather. 

"When Columbia gets a lot of rain, the stormwater goes into the sewer system and causes an overload in the downtown area," Sapp said. 

Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp said the sewage plant that services Columbia and other municipalities in the area also gets overloaded with waste in the wet weather months, causing back-ups at the waste processing plant. 

Trapp mentioned the Hinkson Creek Relief Project, which includes four projects to improve the infrastructure downtown to allow for more development. Three of these four projects have been funded by the city, including projects to improve electricity availability, stormwater runoff and sewage relief. 

The freeze is effective until December 1, 2016.