Water disinfection process on hold

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By Chris Sardelli

The start of a new water treatment process designed to eliminate contaminates in the county water supply has been delayed.

Mike Bailes, director of Catawba River Water Treatment Plant, said the new treatment process, originally scheduled to begin in September, has been delayed due to problems in obtaining a permit from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control to allow the plant to install special waterlines to accommodate the new process.

“Anything we do at the water plant needs to be approved by DHEC,” he said. “The ‘permit to construct’ is a very loose term. It just means we need to do plumbing.”

The new process is meant to reduce levels of a disinfection byproduct called trihalomethanes, or THMs, by using chemicals to make drinking water safe for consumption.

Bailes said the plant is planning to change its process by replacing free chlorine in its water with chemicals called chloramines.

The changes are due to Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

Bailes said the Lancaster County Water and Sewer District (LCWSD) has a contractor ready to go and all the equipment needed to set up the new process. He hopes to begin the three-week process some time  this month or in November.

“Right now, it’s up in the air,” Bailes said. “We can’t start work until we get a permit in hand.”

The LCWSD sent out a public notice in its customers’ water bills notifying them about high levels of THMs –  levels that had been higher than allowed by federal standards.

THMs are created during the treatment process when chlorine mixes with organic material, such as decaying leaves and algae, from water pulled from the Catawba River.

Bailes said the plant’s trihalomethane numbers are now in compliance with regulations.

Potential negative effect for some

The new process will use chloramines, which are formed when ammonia is added to water that contains free chlorine. These chemicals tend to react less with organic material in the water, which in turn can reduce the chances for THMs.

By using chloramines, there will be less chlorine taste and odor in the water.

As with any chemical, Bailes said the use of chloramines can have negative effects.

While most people will be safe using the water, two groups of people are more at risk –  kidney dialysis patients and fish owners.

Both groups will need to adjust their equipment and filters to neutralize chloramines.

Dialysis patients who want more information on chloramines removal can contact Southeastern Kidney Council at (800) 524-7139.

A benefit of the delay, Bailes said, is that it allows county residents more time to prepare for the change.

For details

For details about the change in the Lancaster County Water and Sewer District’s water treatment process, contact the district’s quality control coordinator Todd Knight at (803) 416-5264 or the Catawba River Water Treatment Plant at (803) 286-5949.

Additional information is available at  www.lcwasd.org or  http://crwtp.org.

Contact reporter  Chris Sardelli  at csardelli@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 416-8416