COLUMBIA — There are “potential contamination’’ risks in the Savannah River, the source of North Augusta’s drinking water, according to state environmental records.
Officials at the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control and the city said there is no specific polluter looming north of the city’s water intake.
“The ‘potential contamination’ simply refers to our dependence on the river and the potential for something to happen that would not allow us to pull water out for an extended period of time,” said city administrator Todd Glover.
“This issue came to our attention when a large truck ran off the bridge on Interstate 20 and into the Augusta Canal, which runs parallel to the river,” he said, referring to an accident that occurred a few years ago. “It made us think about the possibility of some type of accident that could happen whereby a tanker truck or substance transported on I-20 could get into the river.”
There wasn’t enough leakage to cause a problem for any water system, and the South Carolina side was spared anyway, recalled Chris Lind, the city’s superintendent of water production.
“We didn’t see any impact. But it is possible when you have a heavily traveled interstate above you,” he said. “We like to stay ahead of the curve.”
The combination of a future accident and new regulatory demands have prompted the city to undertake nearly $13 million in upgrades to its drinking water infrastructure. Plans include a new 30-million gallon water storage tank and new pumps and other facilities.
Recent changes in regulatory requirements mean the city is also addressing the amount of disinfectants in the drinking water.
Two products that concern regulators have been shown to lead to problems with the liver, kidney, central nervous system, and increase the risk of cancers.
The city was approved for a low-interest loan from the State Revolving Fund, which is funded through annual U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Capitalization Grants.
In a 2011 report, the EPA estimated the nation needs $384 billion in water infrastructure investment over the next 20 years.