Columbia County officials struggle with smelly water problem

Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013 6:22 PM
Last updated 7:32 PM
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Richmond County’s pungent water could be fixed as soon as Wednesday. Residents in Columbia County, however, might have to wait several weeks before the situation is under control.

John Maldonado, Columbia County’s Water Utility treatment operations manager, said the problem isn’t limited to the Augusta area, though.

“Everybody on the Savannah River basin has that problem,” he said. “I’ve heard that everybody up to Lake Hartwell is having the same problem. We’ve never had a taste and odor issue with our water like this before. The chemicals aren’t doing a good enough job.”

Maldonado said he began receiving complaints of smelly, foul-tasting water more than two weeks ago, prompting the department to collect water samples to send to algae specialists. The test results came back positive for a floating algae bloom in the Savannah River, the area’s major source of drinking water.

Like the Augusta Utilities Department, Maldonado said Columbia County’s water department has treated the supply by introducing potassium permanganate to minimize the taste. The department lacks the resources to add powdered activated carbon, as Augusta has done, he said.

“Everyone should know that we’re actively seeking a solution for the problem and the water is absolutely safe to drink,” he said.

Evans resident Milton Steinberg said he has noticed an earthy taste to his water over the past week. After calling the utilities department last week, he said a worker showed up and opened the fire hydrant in his neighbor’s yard to flush the water system.

“It doesn’t look dirty,” he said. “There’s no cloud in it. You would really never know there was something wrong until you tasted it. It’s a nuisance but they’re trying to their best to stay on top of it.”

After receiving numerous complaints of pungent water, Augusta Utilities Director Tom Wiedmeier said his department might have finally solved the problem in Richmond County. The department’s Highland Avenue raw water reservoir was believed to be the culprit, he said.

“I think that things have gotten much, much better,” he said. “We did a flush all night, and I think the problem could clear up by (Wednesday).”

There isn’t a timeline for a solution in Columbia County, Maldonado said, but that it could take at least a week before stronger chemicals can be added to the water. Unlike the Augusta Utilities Department, Columbia County’s Water Utility doesn’t have the advantage of pinpointing a problem area.

“It would be easier to tell you what areas are not affected,” he said.

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Little Lamb
49245
Points
Little Lamb 10/29/13 - 08:58 pm
2
1
Blue Green Algae

This situation is covered in high school biology textbooks, and the workers at drinking water treatment plants have all been apprised of it. Would you like to read something from the CDC?

Blue Green Algae

Just sit back and relax.

Bizkit
35737
Points
Bizkit 10/29/13 - 10:42 pm
1
2
Blue-green algae are really

Blue-green algae are really cyanobacteria-a bacteria and not a true algae. A very misleading name I know. Cyanobacteria built the oldest fossils stromatolites.

soapy_725
44131
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soapy_725 10/30/13 - 04:36 am
0
0
What about the oxygenation plant at Modoc? And other efforts
Unpublished

related to fish and algae in the river system? Why now?

soapy_725
44131
Points
soapy_725 10/30/13 - 04:36 am
0
0
Why have we not heard from PAM? No danger to the public........
Unpublished

Why have we not heard from PAM? No danger to the public........

Riverman1
94230
Points
Riverman1 10/30/13 - 04:44 am
3
1
Okay Today

The taste of the water in my part of the county, at least at my house, is fine this morning. Maybe it's over?

seenitB4
98472
Points
seenitB4 10/30/13 - 06:35 am
2
1
Dang

That would make me get my own drinking water....personal well like cgee has...

nocnoc
49516
Points
nocnoc 10/30/13 - 07:02 am
2
1
Just wondering out loud here.

Heavy rains in the areas could have:
Washed Farm chem's in the water or feeder streams,
Washed Farm animal waste into the water or feeder streamers.
Extended drought riverbed and streams flushed of decaying vegetation and other items.

Septic Tanks

Upstream Counties dumping Treated waste back into the River and up stream lakes.

semi-related example only: Hall County dumps 44 million gallons Hall of treated sewage into Lake Larnier each day.

But shouldn't all of these have been caught be filters and inspections Before they entered the water system?

Little Lamb
49245
Points
Little Lamb 10/30/13 - 07:41 am
2
0
Chemical

NocNoc asked:

But shouldn't all of these have been caught be filters and inspections before they entered the water system?

The chemicals causing the musty taste are byproducts of blue-green algae life processes. They are the algae's waste products. They are chemicals dissolved in water. Those chemicals are not removed by the filters. Those chemicals are not oxidized by chlorine. Those chemicals are not tested for.

It would appear that potassium permanganate is a stronger oxidant than chlorine, since potassium permanganate coupled with activated carbon is what Augusta is using to tackle the temporary taste issue.

daphne3520
953
Points
daphne3520 10/30/13 - 08:36 am
0
0
Water smells? Yo!, come to where Breezy Hill water is,
Unpublished

it ALWAYS smells like Clorox!!!!!

AutumnLeaves
10343
Points
AutumnLeaves 10/30/13 - 08:53 am
2
0
I recoiled from North

I recoiled from North Augusta's water in two different businesses yesterday (Aiken County). Do they get their water from Savannah River, too? I was hoping it tasted, smelled and felt (texture is slick) better than Richmond County's has the last week or so, but it was almost exactly the same. These businesses put their water through purifiers before serving it, too. I've got to buy more bottled water until the water improves. It might be safe to drink, but that is small comfort when it is nauseating. I haven't been out to Columbia County in the last few weeks so I don't know how it compares to Aiken and Richmond counties. If it is anything like ours, I'm in no hurry to go out there until it is better.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 10/30/13 - 11:50 am
2
1
Not that it isn't happening

Not that it isn't happening but I didn't notice anything diff with our water. Maybe algae-smell is pleasant to my sensors.

Little Lamb
49245
Points
Little Lamb 10/30/13 - 12:41 pm
3
1
Power of Suggestion

Once someone reports a bad odor or a bad taste, others begin to complain about it even if they never noticed it before.

jimmymac
48001
Points
jimmymac 10/30/13 - 03:32 pm
0
0
ALGAE
Unpublished

IT happens ever year in certain parts of the country. Buy your bottled water for drinking and everything will be back to normal in a week or so.

Valkyrie1
315
Points
Valkyrie1 10/31/13 - 12:06 am
0
0
People who live in my

People who live in my neighborhood have been complaining about it but I haven't noticed anything. No strange color, no strange smell, no strange taste. Then again if it's not going to hurt me I really don't care. Once upon a time people drank water from streams and pools of water. A little cosmetic issue is a lot better than dysentery.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 10/31/13 - 08:11 am
0
0
Try the water at the beach

Try the water at the beach and then compare it with our foul smelling algae koolaid. Not so bad now right?

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