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State environmental officials checked three sewer plants in the Columbia area after heavy rain caused spills Wednesday.
The tests for fecal coliform will determine how badly the spills contaminated three major rivers.
Measurements could be complete as soon as today, with more tests to follow if high levels of pollution are found.
Wastewater samples were taken late Wednesday from plants the city of Columbia operates and private facilities run by Alpine Utilities and Bush River Utilities, officials said.
The tests followed the placement of signs warning of bacterial pollution on stretches of the Broad, Congaree and lower Saluda rivers after remnants of Tropical Storm Ida soaked the area.
"It is very safe to say the warnings will be up for several more days," said Thom Berry, spokesman for the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
How long the warnings will remain is unclear until the outcome of the tests is known, he said.
DHEC will order increased sewage treatment efforts to reduce contamination if needed, Berry said.
No one should kayak, canoe, swim or wade in areas where the signs are up as long as they are in place, officials said.
The eight warning signs are clustered at landings in the lower Saluda near Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Garden and at others on the Broad and Congaree in Columbia and Cayce, Berry said.
DHEC officials don't have any idea yet of the scope of the spills, Berry said.
But officials in Cayce, Chapin and Columbia - communities that run major local sewer plants - said their facilities handled triple the normal amounts of wastewater.
That spurt created line breaks and other equipment failures, DHEC officials said.
Nearly 17 million gallons of sewage went through Cayce's plant Wednesday, officials aid.
That jump meant wastewater could be treated for a few hours instead of all day, as normal, city manager Johnny Sharpe said.
Cayce officials took steps to dilute the sewage to reduce contamination flowing into the Congaree, he said.
Meanwhile, officials in Columbia diverted 20 million gallons of wastewater into a holding pond, city utilities director John Dooley said. It handled 80 million gallons, compared to 27 million normally, he said.
Columbia neighborhoods susceptible to flooding in heavy rain, such as Five Points and the Main-Whaley streets area, didn't have problems because it fell steadily instead of in torrents, he said.
Dooley said the contamination isn't likely to create problems at the city drinking water plant on the Columbia Canal off the Broad, but heavy soil erosion in the river will require more filtering and other treatment.
Chapin's plant absorbed a million gallons more than usual by holding it in a basin while releasing sewage already treated, town engineering consultant Johnny Johnson said.
"We got more in one day that we normally get in the month," Mayor Stan Shealy said.
Steps local officials took to counter the spills appear adequate, Berry said.
"Those are acceptable practices in situations like this," he said.