Spartanburg Water History

Spartanburg Water is actually two entities operating under one name. We are Spartanburg Water System (a political subdivision of the city of Spartanburg, overseen by The Commission of Public Works of the City of Spartanburg, South Carolina) and Spartanburg Sanitary Sewer District (a special purpose district established by the state of South Carolina and overseen by the Spartanburg Sanitary Sewer District Commission). Spartanburg Water System and Spartanburg Sanitary Sewer District share many things: goals, facilities, business offices, employees, a chief operating officer, even elected commissioners. Since both are legal entities established by legislation, their finances must be kept separate, however, the work is so interrelated, we have worked as one organization for years. To help the public better understand who we are and that one phone call to our customer service number reaches both organizations, in 2007 we began using the name Spartanburg Water to represent both entities. This page contains a brief history of both organizations, with milestones highlighting significant events.

In 2014, a new mural was installed in downtown Spartanburg, reminding all who pass by that Spartanburg – Hub City –  was founded in 1831. This mural encourages us to love where we live . . . and we love to serve where we live as well. In fact, the story of Spartanburg Water and the story of Spartanburg are intertwined.  “Where water goes, Spartanburg grows!” may have been a tag line created by former Spartanburg Water General Manager John Andrea, but it still holds true today. Join us on this tour through our history as we explore not only the growth of our organization but also the growth of our city and nation.

  • 1881: Fifty years after Spartanburg was founded, the statue of General Daniel Morgan was placed in what became known as “Morgan Square,” and in 1887, Spartanburg’s first water works was chartered by the South Carolina Secretary of State as a privately held company, and the original water plant, the Chinquapin Filter Plant, was established at 250 Whitney Road in Spartanburg. Chinquapin Creek was where Spartanburg got most of its water at one time, and the water flow was good in the creek until about the 1970s. 
  • 1889: Converse College opened, and the following year’s census (1890) showed that Spartanburg had 5,500 residents.
  • 1892: trolleys came to Spartanburg. It is fascinating to note that in later Spartanburg Water infrastructure improvements, old trolley tracks were found on Magnolia and Broad Streets. 
  • 1898: The privately-owned Chinquapin Filter Plant went into receivership, and in 1899 it was purchased by some businessmen with familiar names in the Spartanburg community: John H. Montgomery, Ralph Carson, D. E. Converse, Jesse Franklin Cleveland, and John Bomar Cleveland. They named their water business the Home Water Supply Company.
  • 1907: a fire started on Forest Street that quickly spread and destroyed over 70 buildings and homes in the Spartan Mills area. After this "Big Fire," there was great interest among Spartanburg citizens to acquire ownership of the water company, so after a local referendum, the City of Spartanburg purchased the company. The first Commissioners of Public Works were elected in the spring of 1908, and in 1910, Samuel A. Bush was appointed the first General Manager of Spartanburg Water Works. 
  • 1911: the Textile Industrial Institute opened and would later become Spartanburg Methodist College. In 1912, new pumps were installed at the Chinquapin Filter Plant. 
  • 1916: Marvin M. Boyd was appointed General Manager of Spartanburg Water Works, and in 1917, faced meeting the water service needs of Camp  Wadsworth, a 2,000-acre training camp, for the U.S.Army. Before closing in 1919, 105,000 soldiers would be trained there (in contrast, the population of Spartanburg in 1917 was approximately 20,000). 
  • 1917: The Cleveland Hotel was built and the Shoally Creek pump station supplemented the Chinquapin Creek water supply.
  • 1919: R. B. Simms was appointed General Manager of Spartanburg Water Works.
  • 1921: Spartanburg General Hospital opened and was followed four years later by the opening of the Mary Black Hospital
  • 1925: Mary Black Hospital opened. Construction work began on Reservoir #1 and on a new modern filter plant on the South Pacolet River.
  • 1926: R. B. Simms Filtration Plant and Reservoir #1 began operation with a 6-million-gallon-per-day capacity, serving over 30,000 people.
  • 1927: Charles Lindbergh made his first trans-Atlantic flight in May, and in October, he visited the Spartanburg Downtown Airport for its grand opening as the first commercial airport in South Carolina. 
  • 1929: The Great Depression, when every bank in the City of Spartanburg closed in “the crash,” the Spartanburg Metropolitan District (later the Spartanburg Sanitary Sewer District) was created by Act 556 of the S.C. General Assembly and was managed by the Commission of Public Works of the City of Spartanburg.
  • 1930: WSPA-AM began broadcasting as the first commercial station in SC.
  • 1931: Fairforest and Lawson Fork Wastewater Treatment Plants began operations.The capacity of the Fairforest plant was 3 million gallons per day (MGD), and the capacity of the Lawson Fork plant was 1.5 MGD.
  • 1932: Metropolitan Subdistrict B (the area northwest of the city, including the Southern Shops) was created. The City of Spartanburg was Subdistrict A, established by the original act in 1929. 
  • 1939: World War II began.
  • 1941: The U.S. entered the war and Camp Croft training camp opened as a mobilization center, also known as an Infantry Replacement Training Center (IRTC), with approximately 250,000 soldiers receiving training there until it was closed in 1946.
  • 1942: Fairforest Reclaimed Water Treatment Plant was expanded to provide service for the Camp Croft training camp, and in November 1945, the Simms Suction Well and Eight Million Gallon Pumping Unit were completed. 
  • 1940's: The Spartanburg Water Works building located in downtown Spartanburg.  Photos from this era show the building next to the Cleveland Hotel and the Masonic building.  The Water Works building is now a private residence, and currently, the Masonic building is home to the Little River Roasting Coffee Bar and the Hub City Bookshop.   
  • 1945: World War II ended. 
  • 1947: H. Taylor Blalock began serving as Commissioner and served until 1959 and then again from 1961-1978. Lake Blalock would later be dedicated to him in honor of his service. 
  • 1948-1950: Additions of a chemical control building and a sedimentation basin were made to the Simms Water Treatment Plant. 
  • 1950-1953: America enters the Korean War. The Landrum Pumping Station site was donated in memory of J.E. Morgan in 1953, and additions to the Chemical Storage building at the Simms plant began. Capacity at Lawson Fork Wastewater Treatment Plant was expanded to accommodate growth.
  • 1958: Milliken Research Center opened, Interstate 85 was completed, and the Reservoir No. 2 Contract Letting was held.   
  • 1960: Interstates 85 and 26 intersected at Spartanburg, and the county population had increased to over 156,000 residents. A new dam creating Lake Bowen (Reservoir Number 2) was built to increase the water supply to the Simms Filtration Plant. The average flow to the Lawson Fork Wastewater Treatment Plant was 2.7 MGD; the average flow to the Fairforest Wastewater Treatment Plant was 4.1 MGD.
  • 1962: Spartanburg Technical College (later known as Spartanburg Community College)  and the “Jetport” (later Greenville-Spartanburg Airport) opened.
  • 1963: John Andrea would serve as General Manger until 1986. Improvements to the Simms plant included two vertical pumps, a sedimentation basin, six million gallon filtration, pump room and suction well.
  • 1965: The District acquired ownership of the Camp Croft sewage facilities and the Una Subdistrict was formed, creating Subdistrict C.
  • 1967: Spartanburg Water acquired the Cowpens Water System and USC-Spartanburg (later USC-Upstate) opened.  
  • 1968: Mary Black Hospital moved to Skylyn Drive, and additions to the Fairforest Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant began in 1968 and were completed in October 1969. During this time, the Vietnam War was raging (1969-1973), and Americans witnessed Neil Armstrong walk on the moon (1969). 
  • 1966: The Endangered Species Preservation Act, the nation's first law to protect endangered species of native fish and wildlife, was created.
  • 1970: President Nixon formed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce laws that protect the environment and public health. The Legislative Act 1503 was passed, changing the name of the Spartanburg Metropolitan District to the Spartanburg Sanitary Sewer District. Prior to this legislation, growth in the area had spurred haphazard development that included private sewerage systems that were sometimes inadequate, while in other areas, no systems were in place. The Spartanburg Metropolitan District lacked authority to construct collection lines to serve new development, or to establish standards for the construction and upkeep of systems. This legislation expanded the boundaries of the District and gave it authority to construct sewer collection mains to serve users directly. It also allowed the District to annex areas by petition or by public necessity to serve areas beyond its initial established boundaries. 
  • 1972: The Clean Water Act placed a limit on the flow of raw sewage into rivers, lakes and streams.
  • 1973: The Spartanburg Sanitary Sewer District Commission is established as the governing body of the District. This legislation was later changed by the State Supreme Court, reducing the number of commissioners from eight to seven. The Endangered Species Act was passed to protect wildlife and it expanded federal protection to plants.
  • 1974: The Safe Drinking Water Act outlawed pollutants to ensure water is safe to drink.
  • 1970's: An expansion of the Fairforest plant was completed, increasing capacity to 10 MGD, and the Simms Filtration Plant was also expanded to ensure an adequate water supply for future growth. Wastewater system improvements in Cowpens were completed in April 1971, and additions to the Lawson Fork Wastewater Treatment Plant were completed in 1973, with an expansion project to this plant completed in 1977, increasing capacity to 6 MGD. WestGate Mall opened in 1975. 
  • 1976: The Commission of Public Works authorized the creation of the H. Taylor Blalock Reservoir (Lake Blalock) to further ensure an abundant supply of water for the future. Lake Blalock was built by damming the North Pacolet River, construction was completed in 1983, and it was dedicated on November 1985 in memory of H. Taylor Blalock and in honor of his 29 years of service as Commissioner.
  • 1985: The Liberty Street elevated storage tank was built as a twin to the Kennedy Street elevated storage tank, which was built in 1936. 
  • 1986: Spartanburg Water System celebrated 60 Years of Progress at the R.B. Simms Filtration Plant.
  • 1987: The system celebrated 100 years of existence from 1887, when it was established as a private water company. R.B. Simms Filtration Plant was named an American Water Landmark by the American Water Works Association, recognizomh the significant role the Simms plant played in supplying superior water to Spartanburg and preserving our quality environment. The Simms plant was the only American Water Works Association landmark in South Carolina and still one of only two such designated places to date. The Fairforest Wastewater Treatment Plant was honored with the Burke Facility Safety Award given by the South Carolina Water and Pollution Control Association, given in recognition of the “excellence of its active and effective safety program and safety record.”  In addition, the John A. Andrea Water Quality Laboratory and Welcome Center was dedicated in honor of his 23 years of service as General Manager.
  • 1988: Spartanburg Water acquired Una Water, and both the Lawson Fork and Fairforest plants were expanded again to include equalization basins at each facility and other process components.   
  • 1991: The Joint Maintenance Facility (also known as Maintenance and Construction) was completed. This building houses the parts and equipment needed to maintain the water distribution system and the sewer collection system.
  • 1992: Spartanburg Sanitary Sewer District annexed the Pacolet Mills service area. BMW held a groundbreaking ceremony for its Spartanburg County manufacturing plant. construction beginning on April 16, 1993, and the opening ceremony held on November 15, 1994.
  • 1993: BMW construction began and the plant opened in 1994.
  • 1996: Construction began on the Lake Blalock Water Filtration Plant. It became mandatory that public suppliers of drinking water provide customers information about the chemicals and microbes in their water.
  • 1997: The Commission of Public Works began obtaining permits to raise the level of Lake Blalock in order to increase the capacity of the reservoir for future water supply needs.
  • 1999: The Lake Blalock Water Treatment Facility began its operations. Several acquisitions were completed during this time, with the Spartanburg Sanitary Sewer District assuming ownership of the Fingerville sewer system in 1997 and the Landrum sewer system in 1998.  Additionally, Spartanburg Water acquired the Pacolet Mills water system in 2001.
  • 2001: Terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and crashed a plane in Pennsylvania intended for the White House. A Palmetto State flag framed in the entrance of the Collection & Distribution Services building certifies this flag was flown during Operation Enduring freedom in honor of Spartanburg Water System. 
  • 2002-2007: The Fairforest plant's capacity was increased to a 25 MGD capacity, consolidating all treatment and biosolids handling at one location and thus providing for the eventual elimination of the Lawson Fork plant. As part of this project, discharge into Lawson Fork Creek was eliminated. All wastewater and biosolids are pretreated and diverted to Fairforest for final treatment and disposal.
  • 2003: The Marriott at Renaissance Park opened in downtown Spartanburg. 
  • 2004: Construction began to raise the dam at Lake Blalock 10 vertical feet to mean sea level 710. The Commission authorized the purchase of the Landrum water system, including the distribution system, water plants and intake.
  • 2006: The level of Lake Blalock was raised, increasing the storage capacity from 2.6 billion gallons to 5.5 billion gallons. 
  • 2007: The Chapman Cultural Center opened. 
  • 2008: The City of Spartanburg's sewer system was transferred to the Spartanburg Sanitary Sewer District.
  • 2010: $30 million worth of infrastructure improvements began, with  improvements to Spartanburg Water’s largest water treatment facilities – the R.B. Simms Water Treatment Plant and the Lake Blalock Water Treatment Plant. These improvements were designed to increase operational reliability and flexibility, ensure future regulatory compliance, and to provide sufficient treatment capacity to serve the projected needs of the Spartanburg region for the next half century. The Simms/Blalock projects met immediate needs for jobs and investment with more than a hundred workers employed and nearly 50 new jobs created.
  • 2011: The first classes at the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM) in Spartanburg were held. 
  • 2013: The Commissioners of Public Works of the City of Spartanburg declared the Blalock Water Treatment Facility should be further known and dedicated as the Myles W. Whitlock, Jr. Water Treatment Facility in recognition and gratitude for his outstanding 24 years of service to Spartanburg Water and to the citizens we serve. A ceremony was held on April 29, 2014 to celebrate this event and to commemorate it with the placement of a plaque in former Commissioner Whitlock’s honor. 
  • 2014: Toray Industries announced plans to invest $1 billion to build a manufacturing plant on 400 acres in Moore. According to the HJ Weekly, this was “the largest initial economic investment in South Carolina history” and will create 500 jobs. BMW Group announced a $1 billion plan to add production of the new X7, adding 800 jobs to its Spartanburg County plant by the year 2016. Bass Pro Shops announced their plans to build a store near BMW. Upward Star Center opened its 120,000 square-foot facility on 60 acres at Warren H. Abernathy Highway. The Northside redevelopment effort continued, resulting in the November ribbon-cutting for Harvest Park on Howard Street, which became the new home in 2015 for the Hub City Farmers Market, the Butterfly Foundation, the Monarch Cafe and Fresh Food Store, and HCFM’s Urban Farm. The Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) named the R.B. Simms Water Treatment Plant and the Myles W. Whitlock, Jr. Water Treatment Plant Improvements projects as the recipients of its “2014 Overall Best Design-Build Project in the Southeast.”  The projects also won two additional awards, including the best projects in both the Industrial/Process Sector and in the Infrastructure Sector.