The Buzz

Roads reopening, tap water OK to drink

Garners Ferry road is expected to open soon as crews repair flood damage to the roadway near the bridge over Gills Creek.
Garners Ferry road is expected to open soon as crews repair flood damage to the roadway near the bridge over Gills Creek. tglantz@thestate.com

State road workers made progress Wednesday in repairing major Midlands thoroughfares damaged in last week’s floods.

Meanwhile, after 11 days of boiling water to make it safe, all customers of the city of Columbia water system were given the OK to drink their tap water at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Both developments are signs that more of life is returning to normal in South Carolina’s Capital City and the Midlands. But many fixes still will take more time.

Roads reopened Wednesday in Richland County included:

▪  Bookman Road, near Bookman Road Elementary School

▪  Bluff Road, from Congaree Road to Interstate 77

▪  U.S. 601 across the county. A bridge washout had closed part of that highway.

Richland County’s roads and bridges were the hardest hit in the state, said acting state Transportation Department director Christy Hall.

Nearly 100 roads and bridges remained closed Wednesday afternoon in Richland. In Lexington County, 13 roads and bridges were closed.

Statewide, 281 roads and bridges were closed. That number is down from more than 540 closed eight days ago, Gov. Nikki Haley said Wednesday.

Garners Ferry to reopen next week?

Other major roads are expected to reopen soon.

For example, Garners Ferry Road is expected to reopen early next week, according to the Transportation Department. Repairs to Monticello Road also are expected to be completed by early next week.

Wednesday, state maintenance workers were repairing the washed-out roadway on Monticello Road on both sides of a bridge over Crane Creek at Interstate 20.

Four Aiken-area crews are working 12 hours a day on the road, said Andy Leaphart, chief engineer for operations at the Transportation Department. High water washed out the ground underneath the road where it connects to the bridge, making it unsafe, according to the Transportation Department.

The Transportation Department is working with local government and school officials to set priorities in repairing roads in affected counties, taking school-bus routes into consideration, said Transportation Department spokesman Pete Poore.

The roads department had 231 workers making repairs in Richland County Wednesday and another 121 in Lexington County.

Crews from other parts of the state, including the Upstate, where damage was not as severe, are helping with Midlands repairs, Poore said. More help from other areas of the state is on the way, he added.

Water quality good, officials say

Meanwhile, City of Columbia water customers now can drink and cook with tap water.

Two days of testing have shown the water’s quality is good, city officials said.

However, officials recommend customers:

▪  Flush out their taps for about 30 seconds before using the water

▪  Empty out their ice trays of any ice made during the boil-water advisory

▪  Dispose of ice in automatic ice makers until their water lines are clear

Most of the city’s 375,000 customers have been boiling water since Oct. 4. About a third of those customers, in the northwest area of Richland County stretching into Lexington County, have been off the boil-water notice since Saturday.

Broken water lines and a breach in downtown’s Columbia Canal compromised the integrity of the water system. The water in the canal, which is a reservoir for downtown’s water-treatment plant serving 188,000 customers, was contained by a boulder dam at 6 p.m. Monday.

The last repairs to water lines — a broken 24-inch pipe on Kay Street — will be finished Thursday, officials said. Customers in that area will be placed under a temporary boil-water advisory while repairs are being made. Until then, those customers can safely drink tap water.

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., attended Wednesday's news conference where city officials announced the repeal of the boil-water advisory and jokingly expressed his own relief. “It's been tough trying to cook grits.”

Reach Cope at (803) 771-8657.

S.C. House budget panel to begin flood-cost discussions

The S.C. House Ways and Means Committee will hold hearings with state agencies to assess the cost of flooding repairs, Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, said Wednesday.

Lucas said he has met with agency officials, including the S.C. National Guard and the departments of Transportation, Health and Environmental Control, and Agriculture.

It is clear it will take more time to make full assessments of the damages and cost of repairs, he added. “It will, ultimately, be the responsibility of the General Assembly to provide the means and method of recovery.”

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