News Column

Water system will work with Clemson University to combat algae

September 2, 2014

By Nikie Mayo, Anderson Independent Mail, S.C.

Sept. 02--The regional water system that serves about 200,000 Upstate customers will work with researchers from Clemson University and an environmental-engineering company to try to combat algae affecting the taste of drinking water.

Scott Willett, executive director of the Anderson Regional Joint Water System, announced the plan to work with the university and with Greenville-based SynTerra Corp. on Tuesday. The announcement came about a week after the system's board of commissioners authorized spending up to $150,000 on a pilot treatment of Hartwell Lake in hopes of improving the smell and taste of residents' drinking water.

Hartwell Lake is the Anderson Regional Joint Water System's main source that provides up to 48 million gallons of water daily to more than a dozen utilities in Anderson and Pickens counties.

For months, the regional system has been battling algae in the lake that has caused unpleasant taste and odor in the drinking water. Water system officials have maintained that the water remains safe to drink and that the Upstate algae they are dealing with is not one of the toxic varieties that officials have encountered in other parts of the country.

In late June, Upstate water system officials added powdered carbon to their treatment processes to combat the earthy smell and taste from the algae. Just hours later, in an unrelated development, the 45-year-old pipe that drew water out of Hartwell Lake broke, triggering an outage and subsequent boil-water advisory that affected thousands of Upstate customers for about two days.

"While the treated water has at all times met the standards for safe consumption, maintaining aesthetic quality has been an ongoing challenge," said a statement issued Tuesday on behalf of the water system.

The regional water system serves multiple cities and towns, including Anderson, Clemson, Pendleton and Williamston. It also serves Sandy Springs and Clemson University.

"After analyzing the existing measures that are in place and conducting initial field investigations, it was determined a well-planned and precise application of algaecides is the best near-term option," water system officials said in Tuesday's prepared statement.

Water system officials say the goal of the pilot treatment is to determine how well, and how economically, they can reduce the presence of odor-causing compounds in the lake. The compounds, commonly called geosmin and MIB, are produced by algae and cause unpleasant taste and odor. Water system officials want to reduce those compounds in the lake so that they are at more treatable levels once the source water is processed at the regional plant.

The pilot treatment will focus only on the source water surrounding the regional water system's intake and will not be a treatment of all of Hartwell Lake.

The treatment will be done under the guidance of John Rodgers, a Clemson University professor deemed an expert on environmentally sound ways to control "nuisance vegetation" in water.

Rodgers was traveling Tuesday and could not be reached for comment.

The materials used in the treatment have been shown to cause no measurable harm to fisheries, water system officials said.

Regional water system officials said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources have been invited to monitor the pilot treatment to make sure it complies with federal and state regulations.

Follow Nikie Mayo on Twitter @NikieMayo


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Source: Anderson Independent-Mail (SC)

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