The State newspaper is reporting that the Environmental Protection Agency and the City of Columbia are close to finalizing a consent agreement that will impose a fine on Columbia of between $1 and $1.5 million for problems with the city’s sewer system, the largest in South Carolina. Aging sewer lines blocked by roots and grease buildup have led in part to some 488 sewer spills over the past two fiscal years, though the rate of spills has been declining as the city has begun to make improvements to its system. Under the consent agreement, Columbia will pledge to continue that work, with assurances that improvements will be made to the city’s sewer plant, pump stations and sewer lines. This work is projected to cost $386 million over the next five years, and much of this cost will be passed on to residential consumers and businesses through higher rates. Read more here.