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LEWA addresses water quality concerns

Posted: September 15, 2016 5:33 p.m.
Updated: September 16, 2016 1:00 a.m.

The Lugoff-Elgin Water Authority (LEWA) recently informed customers that their water is safe to drink, despite having an “earthy” taste and smell.

“We’ve gotten lots of calls,” LEWA General Manager Mike Hancock said. 

Residents contacted the LEWA to express concern about the appearance and taste of their water. 

Hancock explained the issue is a chemical called Methylisoborneol (MIB) which occurs because of algae blooms.  Because of the warm temperatures, Lake Wateree (which supplies water to Kershaw County) has experienced high growth of algae blooms.

“This chemical (MIB) is produced by the blue-green algae which has bloomed in the Wateree River. When the temperatures are high like we’ve been experiencing this summer, and the rainfall decreases, lakes and rivers are prone to have an algae bloom. This summer has been one of the hottest on record according to the TV meteorologists,” Hancock said.

Hancock said MIB can occur during warm weather in any location where cities use surface water as a water source.

“MIB is a problem all across the country … During the summer, the Northern Hemisphere is tilted towards the sun. This, along with reduced rainfall, allows sunlight to get into underwater places not normally lighted. The algae that live there see this as ideal living conditions. As the algae mature, MIB is produced. MIB is what gives the water its earthy taste and smell. In some instances I’ve smelled the MIB as I drove across the Wateree River bridge,” Hancock said.

 Hancock also said storm water runoff, carrying lawn and garden nitrogen and fertilizer, contributes to the growth of the algae by providing it nutrients.

Though the smell and taste of the water is unpleasant to some, Hancock says the water is safe for consumption.

“Our water is safe to drink and will not hurt you. Some people are very sensitive to the taste and smell and can detect MIB in extremely small quantities. Believe it or not, there are also some people who cannot detect it at all,” Hancock said. 

Hancock says the LEWA is applying a “maximum dosage” of Powered Activated Carbon (PAC) to treat the issues caused by MIB. 

“We’re applying the maximum dosage of PAC, but in some conditions, it’s impossible to fully remove the MIB,” Hancock said. 

Hancock suggests those who detect a taste and odor in their water can use a water filter or refrigerate their water.

“People particularly sensitive to taste and odor problems may find some relief with a filter that utilizes carbon or charcoal in its purification process. Something like BRITA. Also, it appears the effects are less noticeable if the water is cooled in a refrigerator prior to drinking.”

He predicts the water’s odor and taste will clear as the temperature decreases.

“Again, the water is safe to drink. When the weather cools off and we get enough rainfall to flush the algae on down the river, the taste and odor should dramatically improve.”

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