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City emphasizes no plans to cut off water service

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On Wednesday, while repairing the breach using boulders and sandbags flown in by one of the Guard’s CH-47 Chinook twin-rotor helicopters, the edges of the breach became unstable due to the increased pressure from water flowing through the increasingly smaller opening. (Photo/Chuck Crumbo)

By Chuck Crumbo
ccrumbo@scbiznews.com
Published Oct. 8, 2015

Despite a setback in repairing a breach in the Columbia Canal, city officials said today there are no plans to cut off water service.

“We are fully operational,” Missy Gentry, assistant city manager, said at the late morning media briefing at Coble Plaza, overlooking the canal and dam.

Gentry and other city officials sought to knock down rumors being spread through social media that the city was going to shut off water across the system for at least a couple of days as it battled to restore full service.

Instead, City Manager Teresa Wilson urged residents to wait for updates from officials that are relayed through the local news media rather than accept what’s offered via social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook.

Since Monday, the city along with the S.C. National Guard and South Carolina Electric & Gas have been trying to patch up the breach.

On Wednesday, while repairing the breach using boulders and sandbags flown in by one of the Guard’s CH-47 Chinook twin-rotor helicopters, the edges of the breach became unstable due to the increased pressure from water flowing through the increasingly smaller opening, officials said.

“We are up against some challenging situations, but we’re doing our best to make the repairs while still keeping the canal levels up,” Gentry said. “Although I am disappointed our initial plans were not successful, we had the foresight to have an alternate plan already in place and we are moving forward.”

The use of a helicopter to airlift the boulders and sandbags into place and fix the canal was just one of a number of contingencies the city was employing, Gentry said.

Rather than using the raw water intakes that typically draw water from the canal, the back-up plans include installing pumps that move water directly from the canal and the Broad River, Gentry said. This plan will help replenish the reservoir as work continues on the canal.

The city has also fixed a number of broken water mains since the weekend’s storm dumped an estimated 12 trillion gallons of rain, according to Mayor Steve Benjamin.

City officials said workers still have five major breaks to repair. Some of those breaks are in areas that remain flooded, officials added.

“We will continue to work around the clock in order to ensure that repairs are successful,” Wilson said.

As workers push toward patching up the canal and restoring full service, a citywide boil water advisory remains in effect except for Town of Chapin.

Customers who no longer need to boil their water prior to drinking or cooking are near the Columbia Lake Murray Plant. The area includes customers along S.C. Hwy 6 at the Lake Murray Plant, customers on Farming Creek Road and customers on Broad River Road down to Geology Circle.

Following an intense flushing of the distribution system, bacteriological samples were collected and analyzed by the water department.

“The results of this sampling indicate that the system is safe to use for drinking and cooking purposes,” the city said.

City officials anticipate the current boil water advisory to remain in effect for an extended period of time.

In addition, the city department’s 350,000 customers also are being asked to conserve water.

“By conserving water, residents will assist the city in protecting one of the region’s main water sources while repairs are being completed,” according to a statement.

Gentry said the city and Richland County will continue to operate water distribution sites, many of them at fire stations.

For more information about water distribution points and drinking water tips, click here.

Reach Chuck Crumbo at 803-726-7542.

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