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After 2015 disruption, is the city of Columbia’s water system ready for Florence?

When will the Columbia Canal be repaired

Gregory Tucker, City of Columbia special projects administrator, explains the procedures that will lead to the repair of the Columbia Canal.
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Gregory Tucker, City of Columbia special projects administrator, explains the procedures that will lead to the repair of the Columbia Canal.

In October 2015, the 1,000-year flood knocked out the city of Columbia’s downtown water treatment plant, one of only two that provide water to both city and county residents.

Debris from the Broad River jammed open the dozen intake gates to the Columbia Canal, the plant’s source of water. The resulting torrent topped the canal’s sidewalls, blowing out a huge section, and leaving the downtown plant high and dry..

As a result, many parts of the city — particularly downtown and Lower Richland — were under a boil water advisory for 10 days and the city had to use use an emergency river pumping system for another thirty.

With warnings about the potential impact of Hurricane Florence on the Midlands, city officials say they are ready this time around.

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin urged city residents to prepare for Hurricane Florence. The storm has potential to cause severe damage in the Midlands.

“It’s daunting to see the title Storm of a Lifetime,” Mayor Steve Benjamin said at a news conference with agency heads on Thursday. “But we’re ready. We’re prepared.”

Clint Shealy talks about the events of the flood, it's damage to the Columbia Canal and what it took to keep water flowing to the city's customers.

The city has already closed the dozen gates at the head of the canal and have installed bulk heads to seal them off, said Clint Shealy, assistant city manager of Columbia water.

“That essentially stops all of the flow into the canal,” he said.

And the temporary rock dam that was hurriedly built after the flood is designed as a spillway to allow water to flow over it and out of the breach into the Congaree River.

‘It’s a temporary solution,” Shealy said. “But it’s a robust temporary solution.”

Follow more of our reporting on Hurricane Florence

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