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Spring 2017

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Cranes mark the spot of the new treatment module being built next to the existing modules at the Santee Cooper Regional Water System on Lake Moultrie.
Cranes mark the spot of the new treatment module being built next to the existing modules at the Santee Cooper Regional Water System on Lake Moultrie.

Swift Growth Current Catches Water Systems

Water has inspired many artists through time, from poets who penned of its power to painters who captured its beauty on canvas.

As a muse, water is abundant. As a drinkable resource, it’s much scarcer. Three-fourths of the planet’s surface is water, but 97 percent of it is salt water and most of the rest is captured in glaciers or underground.  Relatively speaking, that leaves just a few drops suitable for human consumption.

Fortunately for South Carolina, there is plenty of suitable water available in Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie, which together form the state’s largest freshwater system. The lakes are home to two modern water treatment systems serving nearly 200,000 people, with plenty of room to grow.

Santee Cooper operates both plants, which are governed by separate multi-jurisdiction agencies that are role models for public-entity cooperation. Expansion is already underway at both plants, as they prepare for not only new residents, but a burgeoning industrial scene that will likely drive continued population growth for years to come.

“Dependable water is crucial to our health and quality of life. It is also vital to business, tourism and other activities that create and sustain jobs and economic prosperity,” said Pamela Williams, Santee Cooper senior vice president of corporate services. “This is directly related to Santee Cooper’s mission, to be a leading resource for improving the quality of life for all South Carolinians.”

Clockwise from top left: Brian Lynch, Santee Cooper Water Systems manager at treatment plant on Lake Moultrie; New construction expanding the Santee Cooper Regional Water System is visible beyond an existing treatment module; The Lake Marion Regional Water System features membrane filtration better suited for Lake Marion’s more turbid waters; Sediment and impurities removed from the water before delivery.  Clockwise from top left: Brian Lynch, Santee Cooper Water Systems manager at treatment plant on Lake Moultrie; New construction expanding the Santee Cooper Regional Water System is visible beyond an existing treatment module; The Lake Marion Regional Water System features membrane filtration better suited for Lake Marion’s more turbid waters; Sediment and impurities removed from the water before delivery.  Clockwise from top left: Brian Lynch, Santee Cooper Water Systems manager at treatment plant on Lake Moultrie; New construction expanding the Santee Cooper Regional Water System is visible beyond an existing treatment module; The Lake Marion Regional Water System features membrane filtration better suited for Lake Marion’s more turbid waters; Sediment and impurities removed from the water before delivery.  Clockwise from top left: Brian Lynch, Santee Cooper Water Systems manager at treatment plant on Lake Moultrie; New construction expanding the Santee Cooper Regional Water System is visible beyond an existing treatment module; The Lake Marion Regional Water System features membrane filtration better suited for Lake Marion’s more turbid waters; Sediment and impurities removed from the water before delivery.
Clockwise from top left: Brian Lynch, Santee Cooper Water Systems manager at treatment plant on Lake Moultrie; New construction expanding the Santee Cooper Regional Water System is visible beyond an existing treatment module; The Lake Marion Regional Water System features membrane filtration better suited for Lake Marion’s more turbid waters; Sediment and impurities removed from the water before delivery.

The Santee Cooper Regional Water System, on Lake Moultrie, opened in 1994 with a permit to produce up to 36 million gallons of drinking water per day (mgd).  The Moultrie plant currently has the capacity to produce 28 mgd. Sometime this year, projections show, customer demand will outpace that 28 mgd capacity.

Already, water demand is surging. The Moultrie system treated and delivered 6,856 million gallons of water in 2016, a 9 percent increase over 2015. And the plant set a monthly demand record in August, at 709 million gallons.

A larger Moultrie plant should be operating by this fall. The ongoing $27 million expansion will increase capacity to 40 mgd by adding an additional treatment module (also known as a treatment train) to the two already in service, and installing additional bulk chemical storage. Four new raw water pumps have already been added to deliver more water to this bigger, better treatment plant.

Construction crews work on the newest treatment module, which will help increase capacity to 40 mgd of water to meet the surge in water demand.
Construction crews work on the newest treatment module, which will help increase capacity to 40 mgd of water to meet the surge in water demand.

“This is the largest project we’ve undertaken since the Santee Cooper Regional Water System opened more than two decades ago,” noted Brian Lynch, water systems manager for Santee Cooper. “Even so, the expanded system will use less water than the lake loses to evaporation on a windy or hot day. The amount of water we pull off the lake is negligible.”

The Moultrie system serves the Lake Moultrie Water Agency and its four members: Berkeley County Water and Sanitation, the City of Goose Creek, the Summerville Commissioners of Public Works, and the Moncks Corner Public Works Commission. All four municipal customers are growing now and projecting that growth to continue, with Berkeley County leading the way.

The Santee Cooper Regional Water System, which set a monthly demand record in August 2016, is being expanded to serve a rapidly growing population.
The Santee Cooper Regional Water System, which set a monthly demand record in August 2016, is being expanded to serve a rapidly growing population.

Berkeley County is among the fastest-growing counties in South Carolina and in the country, census data shows. And that was before the first home was built in Nexton, Cane Bay or Carnes Crossroads – three major residential developments under construction that could add as many as 75,000 new people to the county.

Berkeley County is also home to the new Volvo Cars manufacturing plant. Now under construction, the plant is expected to employ 2,000 people initially and could grow to twice that size. The Volvo plant is adjacent to Camp Hall, a commerce park Santee Cooper is developing with nearly 2,000 acres available for industrial activity. And there are several other industrial commerce parks actively recruiting large industry to Berkeley County. Future expansion of the Moultrie transmission pipe system will deliver water to this area.

With all this activity, the ongoing water plant expansion is good news, but it isn’t enough. Driven by Berkeley County’s growth, the Moultrie system’s demand is projected to exceed that 40 mgd capacity by 2020. And so plans are underway for another expansion that would increase the Santee Cooper water system to 54 mgd, add a third above-ground clear well and a fourth treatment train.

One big fan of the expansions underway and planned is Berkeley County Supervisor William W. “Bill” Peagler III.

 

Brian Lynch, Santee Cooper water systems manager, and Richard Wimberly at the Lake Marion Regional Water System.
Brian Lynch, Santee Cooper water systems manager, and Richard Wimberly at the Lake Marion Regional Water System.

“Berkeley County’s success and our partnership with Santee Cooper go hand in hand,” Peagler said. “Water is crucial to our growth and economic prosperity. Without it, you aren’t going anywhere. If you can’t provide potable water service to a developer or a business, they’re not going to look at you.”

Beyond industry, good drinking water is critical to quality of life, Peagler added. “We’re pleased that Santee Cooper recognizes the need, and is striving to serve our growth with safe, reliable drinking water for everyone.”

Santee Cooper’s newer water system is the Lake Marion Regional Water System, which opened in 2008 with a permit to produce up to 8 mgd. Serving the Lake Marion Regional Water Agency, the system currently provides water to three agency members: the Town of Santee, Calhoun County and Orangeburg County. Other members include Dorchester County and Berkeley County Water and Sanitation, which will be served by system expansions. 

During the April 2008 dedication of the Marion plant, speakers praised the persistence of U.S. Rep. James Clyburn in securing the funding to build the facility. Noting the plant’s importance himself, Clyburn called it a “tremendous day for the communities… that will ultimately benefit from the clean, safe drinking water this project will provide. Access to potable water is also a key component to attracting economic development to the I-95 corridor.”

Control centers such as this allow Lynch, William Flowers, mechanic A, and Darrel Wadford, water system supervisor, to monitor the facility and water usage at the Santee Cooper Regional Water System.
Control centers such as this allow Lynch, William Flowers, mechanic A, and Darrel Wadford, water system supervisor, to monitor the facility and water usage at the Santee Cooper Regional Water System.

Like the Moultrie system, the Marion plant saw banner growth in 2016, with an 11 percent increase in gallons of water treated and de- livered compared to 2015 and a 50 percent increase in demand in the past four years. The Marion plant also set a demand record in August at 34.4 million gallons. In addition to being newer, the Marion system is smaller than the Moultrie plant, but it is growing quickly and preparing for additional growth as forecast by Clyburn nine years ago.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers oversaw construction of the original plant and continues that role for new projects that are funded through federal grants. Currently, the Corps is working on the Dorchester reach, which will add several miles of transmission pipeline through Dorchester County close to Interstate 26. Future plans call for additional transmission pipeline to the other side of Camp Hall and near the Volvo plant.

The Marion plant uses a membrane filtration system that works well for the more turbid water coming into Lake Marion near the plant’s intake pipe, a technology that was first in the state at the time it was installed. At the Moultrie plant, “we are fortunate to have such a large reservoir of very clean water, with very consistent water quality,” said Lynch, the water plants manager.

In fact, both water treatment plants have produced award-winning drinking water that has earned the designation of “Best Tasting” by the South Carolina Rural Water Association.

“Santee Cooper takes great pride in what we are doing for the communities we serve,” Lynch said. “We have good guidance from the agencies governing these plants. These are partnerships that are doing more than just delivering water.     They are growing communities.”