Originally created 11/28/98

Water warning to continue



AIKEN -- An advisory warning people in north Aiken County not to drink tap water was extended Friday, and state health officials say the precaution may continue for five to seven days.

More water samples were taken Friday by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, which is monitoring Aiken's water supply until it is no longer affected by runoff from a fire that has taken millions of gallons to combat.

The fire is still smoldering with occasional "hot spots" that flare up.

Results from the latest water tests are expected today.

As long as the fire persists, there is a potential for runoff, which could reach the Shaws Creek Water Treatment Plant, said DHEC spokesman Thom Berry.

For that reason, the advisory will remain in effect until the fire, which ignited last week at Carlisle Tire and Wheel Co., is extinguished.

Water will still be provided by the city at fire stations, recreational facilities, the Municipal Building, Crosland Park, J.D. Lever Elementary School and the Lower Savannah Work Release center.

Meanwhile, cleanup crews from Whatley, Ga., and fire experts from Texas began ripping down steal beams Friday that twisted like pretzels after the roof of the plant buckled a week ago, sending firefighters scurrying for their lives. Cleanup is expected to continue for at least five days.

Fire investigators have been scouring the smoldering debris for three days, tucking away the tiniest pieces of evidence that will lead them to what started the blaze that has kept officers from the Aiken Department of Public Safety at the scene since Nov. 19.

But some officials fear that so much debris burned for so many days that investigators may never determine what sparked the blaze.

On Thursday, health officials found traces of Caprolactan in the water supply. Although the chemical -- used to make nylon -- is not very toxic, it can cause a stinging sensation in the eyes, nose and throat, Mr. Berry said.

Officials began conducting the tests after residents complained their water tasted like rubber, smoke, pesticide or petroleum after water used to fight the blaze at the storage facility began running into a tributary of Shaws Creek.

Some of the tires that were burning had nylon belts, and officials suspected that was where the chemical was from, Mr. Berry said.

Chasiti Kirkland is a reporter for The Augusta Chronicle. She can be reached at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.