Timeline unclear for fix to “earthy” taste and smell of Columbia Water

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Published: Jun. 2, 2022 at 7:37 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - If you live, work or visit Columbia, you may have tasted or smelled its water in recent weeks.

Columbia Water reports harmless compounds have created the conditions. The utility is working to remove the taste and smell, but the timeline remains unclear.

Columbia Water spokesperson Robert Yanity said the problem first emerged three weeks ago, when the presence of a smell-causing compound surged in the Broad River.

The reason for the surge is unclear, but Columbia Water began treating the water with activated Carbon to reduce the smell and taste.

Since the issue has persisted, Yanity said Columbia Water is in talks with DHEC to get approval to treat the water with an additional chemical, Copper Sulfate.

WIS asked what the timeline is for DHEC’s approval.

“Hopefully very soon, DHEC is well aware of the concerns and we have approached them before to use this. We use this at our Lake Murray plant when it had issues before so they understand how quickly we need to do this,” he said.

Yanity said the utility apologizes to customers and is actively monitoring the situation and working to correct it.

He stressed the compounds causing the odor and taste are not toxic.

University of South Carolina Chemistry and Biochemistry Professor Susan Richardson confirmed the compounds involved are not toxic.

“I’m not concerned about them it’s not like there’s other harmful things that would coexist with those two chemicals,” Richardson said.

UofSC Assistant Professor of Earth, Ocean, and Environment David Fuente also confirmed the compounds are not a health risk and said Columbia Water’s actions with the activated carbon are appropriate.

“It is going to take a little bit of time to get the chemistry right. So my sense is they’re doing the best they can,” he said.

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