Edisto’s new water tastes great

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Edisto Beach residents can now turn on their faucets and have fresh, ready-to-drink water. The water system will no long distribute water with a salty taste.

According to Mayor Jane Darby, “The water the Edisto Beach residents and vacationers had, prior to this, was safe to drink, just not very tasty. But it did make good grits. However, we are thrilled about this new development for the Town of Edisto Beach.”

Prior to the town’s new water plant at 2502 Lee Street, the water’s salty taste came from higher concentrations of sodium chloride (salt) found in water near Santee Limestone Aquifer. As a result, many homeowners installed water filtration systems to make the water more palatable.

Other Edisto residents made regular trips to the fire station near the town hall, where for years the town has provided water treated by a reverse osmosis system free of charge. The “watering hole” even became a meeting place for people to chat and view the town’s bulletin board.

But now with the new tap water filtration system throughout Edisto, the “chatting at the watering hole” will be a thing of the past.

The water system is designed to meet the town’s water needs which change monthly — a typical February day sees the town’s customers using about 300,000 gallons daily. During the Fourth of July holiday, the town can see consumption climb to 1.5 million gallons a day.

“We were almost pressured into implementing this new water plant. We just did not have enough water to meet the needs of the people or the fire department. We hated going into debt, but we saw no other way. But now, everyone is thrilled with the new water. They are removing their old filtering systems and enjoying water straight from the faucet,” said Mayor Darby.

The town implemented two 15-percent rate hikes to pay for the $7.255-million revenue bond issued to pay for the plant’s construction. The bond will be in place for 30 years.

The water treatment plant, constructed by the design-build team of Wharton-Smith Inc. and Thomas & Hutton, is near the town hall and wastewater treatment plant.

The plant is 110x42-feet, two stories tall. The first-floor ceiling is higher than normal — tall enough to contain a 300,000-gallon clear well to hold the treated water that doubles the town’s water storage capacity. The second floor contains all the water treatment equipment.

The plant’s exterior of hardy plank siding and masonry cosmetically fits the area. Osmosis is also a quiet treatment process.

The most noise the plant produces comes once a week when the city is required to exercise the generators used to operate the plant if the electrical service goes out. To limit the inconvenience, the town turns on the generators at lunchtime. Also, the existing wells will be maintained in case there is an emergency.

The entire process consists of combining reverse osmosis (RO) water treatment with additional supply and storage. The RO treatment uses pressure to separate dissolved salts and other ions from water. Pressurized water is applied to a semi-permeable membrane. This membrane allows water molecules to pass through but rejects the salts and ions. A pipe runs from the plant into the ocean, several hundred yards off shore. Water containing all the salt removed during the treatment process is discharged into the ocean. That discharge is tested according to South Carolina Department of Natural Resource standards for the safety of marine life and ecosystems.

“The only issue we are facing since we are in the startup phase is the color of the water at first. We would like to caution folks that there will be some discoloration of the water and possible sedimentation initially. This may take some time for it to clear the distribution system, but it is safe to drink. Also, folks who are away will experience this when they first use the treated water,” said Iris Hill, town administrator.

The new treatment plant project is designed to address quantity and quality issues rendering in-home filtration systems unnecessary; however, if residents decide to keep the systems, they need to contact their vendors to discuss how the new system will impact the filters.

Town officials advise residents to decrease irrigation, because supply is limited.

Home kidney dialysis patients must consult with equipment suppliers for proper filtering systems. Also, residents with aquariums need to contact professionals regarding the new changes.

But even with all the first-time tweaks and precautions, residents couldn’t be happier with their new water system.

Realtor Marie C. Bost was surprised with the new water. “The water tastes great, no discoloration or sediment. Having lived on Edisto all my life over 50+ years, we all know it is ‘Edislow;’ however, those of us in successful businesses realize that there are always delays in contract project timelines, increases in projects costs, etc. I am stunned that the town was able to get this major feat accomplished in the timeline it did with all the unforeseen obstacles,” said Bost.

Long time resident David Ballard agrees. “After a long wait, the water provided by the town’s new RO system has a great taste. Our plumbing fixtures will now last much longer and we can wash our cars without the worry of corrosion,” said Ballard.

“We are thrilled to have our new Reverse Osmosis Water Treatment Plant completed and running. I have toured five other RO plants, and I am extremely proud of the exemplary plant that has been constructed for our town.  This is the culmination of a group effort of our town staff, town leaders, involved residents, and a winning engineering and construction team.  We especially want to thank the group of residents on our Water and Sewer Committee who were instrumental in choosing the team to design and construct this system,”said Patti Smyer, town council member.

“This has been a long time coming. It’s so wonderful to go straight to the faucet, cut on the water, fill a glass, and drink delicious fresh water,” said Mayor Darby.

Councilman Jerome Kizer agrees with Darby. “This has been a dream of many long time Edisto Beach residents. We are truly blessed to have been able to complete this project.”

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