It will be days, even a couple of weeks, before all customers who depend on Columbia’s water system can rely on its safety for drinking and cooking, a key city staffer said Monday.
“Predominantly, if you’re in the city of Columbia, you still have to boil water,” said assistant city manager Missy Gentry.
The city’s flood-damaged downtown water treatment plant serves roughly half the water system’s 375,000 metro-Columbia customers.
Meanwhile, a boulder dam that is being constructed across the breached Columbia Canal might be completed this week, she said. The dam is crucial to returning the canal to being the sole water supply for the plant.
The plant took in 12 million gallons more Monday than it pumped out overnight Sunday, meaning it has stabilized, Gentry said. The plant’s 30 million-gallon reservoir of untreated water was full Monday.
“Our supply is very steady and very stable,” she said.
Asked when the water supply would be safe for all homes, businesses, restaurants, bars and other locations the city serves in the metro area, Gentry said Monday afternoon, “That is a real hard time line to define.”
Before any boil water notices can be lifted, the city’s certified lab must test samples to ensure they meet safe standards.
Private and public crews have been working to repair the canal since Oct. 5 when its dike ripped open.
Leaks in pipes still are draining water from water lines, allowing contamination into the system. Gentry said the rate of breaks in large lines has slowed, but she does not know how many smaller lines still are leaking.
An 8-inch water line in the Audubon Oaks subdivision in Richland County is among the most recent to spring leaks.
Workers can shut off valves to seal leaking pipes. But that sometimes causes other leaks, Gentry said.
A few areas remain under water, and work crews can’t get to them to determine the extent of the leaks, she said.
As of Sunday night, about 73,000 customers have been told they may safely drink or cook with tap water. They are largely suburban customers who live along a swath that stretches from the Lake Murray area to portions of Northeast Columbia. Some outlying areas within the city also have had the boil-water notice lifted.
In responses to complaints, the city began publishing Monday on its website the names of streets where water is safe for drinking and cooking. A color map outlines the locations where water is safe or remains contaminated.
Reach LeBlanc at (803) 771-8664.
Columbia sewer system
The Capital City’s sewer-treatment plant at the Congaree River and Interstate 77 is operating despite damage caused by last week’s flood.
▪ Plant is processing 71 million gallons of sewer water daily. That’s almost double the 40 million it handles normally at this time of year.
▪ The system’s five largest lift stations, which are critical to sending waste to the plant, are working. But other lift stations are broken and supply lines remain filled.
▪ Workers have been unable to get to some damaged parts of the Columbia sewer system that remain under water.
SOURCE: Columbia assistant city manager Missy Gentry