DHEC confirms approval for new water treatment to improve Columbia Water

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Published: Jun. 7, 2022 at 6:02 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) confirmed to WIS on Tuesday it approved a new treatment for the water the City of Columbia relies on.

DHEC has given Columbia Water approval to use Copper Sulfate to kill algae which produce compounds in the water that create an “earthy” smell and taste.

DHEC’s Primary Drinking Water Regulations references Copper Sulfate as follows:

Copper Sulfate and Other Copper Compounds - Continuous or periodic treatment of water with copper compounds to kill algae or other growths shall be controlled to prevent copper in excess of one (1) milligrams per liter as copper in the plant effluent or distribution system. Care shall be taken in obtaining a uniform distribution. Department approval shall be obtained prior to the use of any such compound.

The approval comes after Columbia Water’s initial filtration using activated Carbon failed to eliminate the smell and taste, which Columbia Water states has been present for more than three weeks.

DHEC sent a statement reading:

Organisms like bacteria and algae naturally occur in water bodies, including water bodies that serve as a source for drinking water. When these naturally occurring organisms die, organic compounds can be released that can impact the water’s taste and smell. The level of biological productivity in a water source can vary throughout the year, and it’s not uncommon for water bodies to experience increased biological productivity during this time of year.

Drinking water facilities have treatment systems in place that reduce the effects of naturally occurring organisms, but these treatment systems don’t always eliminate every impact to taste and odor.

As noted last week, DHEC has sampled the Broad and Congaree rivers in light of recent reports of odor and smell issues with drinking water from the City of Columbia, the City of West Columbia and the City of Cayce, and our testing confirmed that the levels of algae-related compounds detected are a nuisance, but they are not a current health concern.

Yes, you’re correct: the agency has given approval for the city to add copper sulfate treatment at the canal plant to assist with the odor and smell concerns. Please reach out to the city for some more details on its continued treatment efforts.

Columbia Water released a statement reading:

Columbia Water Update on Taste and Odor Issue 02

Columbia Water is continuing its efforts to address the taste and odor issue that is affecting customers served by its Canal Water Treatment Plant. The musty taste and odor is harmless. It is caused by geosmin, which is produced from algae in water and is naturally occurring in the environment. It is what gives dirt and certain vegetables like beets their odor.

We continue to add activated carbon, which acts like a sponge, to the treatment process. We are also flushing in numerous places throughout our water distribution system. In addition, we received approval from DHEC yesterday, June 6, to add copper sulfate to the treatment process. Copper sulfate is a chemical commonly used for addressing algae problems, and we began adding it yesterday. We are also exploring the possibility of relocating our carbon feed system within the treatment plant to expand the capacity for adding activated carbon.

Although it is hard to determine the impact and timeline of these efforts right now, we do know that it takes 4-to-5 days for water treated at our canal plant to make its way completely through our distribution system. We will continue to monitor the effectiveness of our efforts and adjust accordingly.

We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience as we work to resolve the issue. To learn more about the issue and how we are treating it, please visit our web page at https://columbiascwater.net/geosmin-and-mib/.

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