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CPW gets DHEC approval and begins treatment as geosmin levels rise

Geosmin levels in Lake Rabon have continued to rise, but this week DHEC approved treatment. Lake Rabon is owned and maintained by Laurens County Water and Sewer Commission (LCWSC). (Photo by LCWSC)


Laurens, South Carolina – Tuesday morning the water treatment staff at the Laurens Commission of Public Works were finally given approval by the Department of Health and Environmental Control to add Earth Tech, the first of its planned treatment systems to decrease the high geosmin levels in the water coming in from Lake Rabon.

Staff and commissioners with the Laurens Commission of Public Works (LCPW) and the Laurens County Water and Sewer Commission (LCWSC) had hoped that the geosmin levels which began affecting water taste and smell early this month would have decreased by now, but instead testing indicated that the Lake Rabon geosmin levels have increased greatly.
“Lab results indicated that the level of geosmin in the lake has increased significantly from 33 nanograms per liter on July 8 to 434 ng per liter on July 24,” said LCPW General Manager John Young.
The naturally occurring geosmin can be detected by humans at only 7 ng per liter, and while it is safe for human consumption at all these levels, many of the affected CPW and Laurens County Water and Sewer Commission customers are finding the water difficult to drink due to its earthy taste and smell.
While CPW has been determining the best treatment options for the last two weeks, it had to wait on DHEC.
“We can’t start trying to solve the problem until they say we can because DHEC has to approve everything,” said Young.
“We applied for a DHEC permit more than a week ago to introduce Earth Tech, and we got permission this morning and our technicians started the Earth Tech treatment today.”
Data shows that Earth Tech should help, but that alone won’t be enough to bring levels down enough for such high geosmin numbers, Young said, so on Wednesday morning DHEC officials will meet with CPW staff at the water treatment plant to help determine what amounts of activated carbon will need to be added to further lower those numbers.
While complaints have been coming in regularly to CPW, customers in the western portion of Laurens County have been letting LCWSC know they are also not happy.
LCWSC owns and operates Lake Rabon. It sells water to CPW, which treats the drinking water, and then sells treated water back to LCWSC for about 4,500 of its customers in the Waterloo, Ware Shoals and Hickory Tavern area.

Geosmin is naturally occurring and safe for drinking, cooking, and all other domestic uses.

LCWSC Executive Director Jeff Field said in this instance, there’s nothing that technicians at the lake can do for fear of making the water problems even worse.

“For those who call, we explain the situation and they get it, although I don’t think it makes them feel any better about it,” Field said. “If there is anything we can do to improve the problem, we will do so, but only at the direction of the CPW.  We cannot run the risk of doing something that interferes with their treatment process.”
Lake Greenwood customers have dealt with similar problems in past seasons and Anderson’s problem was even more significant,  which led it to install an ozone system for water treatment to the tune of about $13 million, according to Anderson Regional Joint Water system. The ARWS provides water to about 200,000 customers through 15 Upstate utility companies.
Young said Tuesday that CPW couldn’t consider such an investment with its current customer base.
“Ozone is very expensive to install and very expensive to operate,” Young said.

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