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Columbia, South Carolina Water Quality Report

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Sources Of Drinking Water in Columbia, South Carolina

Where does Columbia's water come from?  Columbia gets its water from the Broad River Diversion Canal (Canal) and Lake Murray (Lake). The Broad River collects water from a large portion of northern South Carolina through the Broad River Basin while Lake Murray receives water from the Saluda River Basin. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control periodically assess the quality of source water for drinking water systems throughout the state.  Is Columbia's water safe to drink?

The City of Columbia uses a series of treatment techniques to produce potable (drinkable) water.

1. Raw Water Intake
As water is pumped into the treatment plants, intake areas screen out floating debris.

2. Pre-Treatment
Aluminum sulfate (alum) and other additives are rapidly mixed into the water to help particles in the water cling together (coagulate) and form heavier particles, referred to as floc.

3. Coagulation/ Flocculation
The water mixture is then gently agitated so that the coagulating particles continue to merge into larger floc particles.

4. Sedimentation
These floc particles pass into a sedimentation basin where they settle to the bottom and are eventually disposed of.

5. Filtration
The clear water is taken from the top of the sedimentation basin and flows to the filters. Filtration removes any remaining particles. The water passes through filters containing layers of sand and anthracite coal. Small floc particles cling to filter material as water passes through.

6. Post Treatment Storage

After all particles have been removed, a small amount of disinfectant is added to the water to keep bacteria from developing as it travels to your home or business. A small amount of fluoride is also added to the water to assist in preventing tooth decay. Finally a small amount of corrosion control chemical called orthophosphate is added to control lead and copper corrosion in the distribution pipes and in the privately owned pipes that lead to homes or businesses.

7. High Service
Treated water is finally pumped to our customers at a pressure ranging from 80 to 125 PSI (pounds per square inch).

Source: City of Columbia

Contaminants Found in Columbia's Water Supply

(Detected above health guidelines)

Bromodichloromethane

Bromodichloromethane, one of the total trihalomethanes (TTHMs), is formed when chlorine or other disinfectants are used to treat drinking water. Bromodichloromethane and other disinfection byproducts increase the risk of cancer and may cause problems during pregnancy.

Chlorate

Chlorate is an anion that can enter drinking water from several potential sources, including from hypochlorite or chlorine dioxide disinfectant use, ozone oxidation of hypochlorite or chlorite and source water contamination from pesticide runoff or papermill discharges. Chlorate impairs thyroid function, making chlorate exposure most harmful during pregnancy and childhood.

Chloroform

Chloroform, one of the total trihalomethanes (TTHMs), is formed when chlorine or other disinfectants are used to treat drinking water. Chloroform and other disinfection byproducts increase the risk of cancer and may cause problems during pregnancy.

Chromium (hexavalent)

Chromium (hexavalent) is a carcinogen that commonly contaminates American drinking water. Chromium (hexavalent) in drinking water may be due to industrial pollution or natural occurrences in mineral deposits and groundwater.

Dibromochloromethane

Dibromochloromethane, one of the total trihalomethanes (TTHMs), is formed when chlorine or other disinfectants are used to treat drinking water.

Dichloroacetic acid

Dichloroacetic acid, one of the group of five haloacetic acids regulated by federal standards, is formed when chlorine or other disinfectants are used to treat drinking water. Haloacetic acids and other disinfection byproducts increase the risk of cancer and may cause problems during pregnancy.

Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs)

Trihalomethanes are cancer-causing contaminants that form during water treatment with chlorine and other disinfectants. The total trihalomethanes group includes four chemicals: chloroform, bromodichloromethane, dibromochloromethane and bromoform.

Trichloroacetic acid

Trichloroacetic acid, one of the group of five haloacetic acids regulated by federal standards, is formed when chlorine or other disinfectants are used to treat drinking water. Haloacetic acids and other disinfection byproducts increase the risk of cancer and may cause problems during pregnancy. 

Fluoride

Fluoride occurs naturally in surface and groundwater and is also added to drinking water by many water systems. The fluoride that is added to water is not the naturally occurring kind, the main chemicals used to fluoridate drinking water are known as “silicofluorides” (i.e., hydrofluorosilicic acid and sodium fluorosilicate). Silicofluorides are not pharmaceutical-grade fluoride products; they are unprocessed industrial by-products of the phosphate fertilizer industry (Gross!). Since these silicofluorides undergo no purification procedures, they can contain elevated levels of arsenic — moreso than any other water treatment chemical. In addition, recent research suggests that the addition of silicofluorides to water is a risk factor for elevated lead exposure, particularly among residents who live in homes with old pipes.

Potential Health Effects of Consuming These Contaminants

Health risks of bromodichloromethane in excess of health guideline

Cancer: The health guideline of 0.4 ppb for bromodichloromethane was defined by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment as a one-in-a-million lifetime risk of cancer. Values greater than one-in-a-million cancer risk level can result in increased cancer cases above one in a million people.

Health risks of chlorate in excess of health guideline

Thyroid & Pregnancy: Chlorate forms in drinking water as a byproduct of disinfection. Chlorate impairs thyroid function, making chlorate exposure most harmful during pregnancy and childhood.

Health risks of chloroform in excess of health guideline

Cancer: The health guideline of 1 ppb for chloroform was defined by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment as a one-in-a-million lifetime risk of cancer. Values greater than one-in-a-million cancer risk level can result in increased cancer cases above one in a million people.

Health risks of Dibromochloromethane in excess of health guideline 

Cancer & Pregnancy: Dibromochloromethane, one of the total trihalomethanes (TTHMs), is formed when chlorine or other disinfectants are used to treat drinking water. Dibromochloromethane and other disinfection byproducts increase the risk of cancer and may cause problems during pregnancy


Health risks of chromium (hexavalent) in excess of health guideline

Cancer: The health guideline of 0.02 ppb for chromium (hexavalent) was defined by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment as a public health goal, the level of a drinking water contaminant that does not pose a significant health risk. This health guideline protects against cancer.

Health risks of dichloroacetic acid in excess of health guideline

Cancer: The health guideline of 0.7 ppb for dichloroacetic acid was defined by the Environmental Protection Agency as a one-in-a-million lifetime risk of cancer. Values greater than one-in-a-million cancer risk level can result in increased cancer cases above one in a million people.

Health risks of trihalomethanes in excess of health guideline

Cancer: The health guideline of 0.8 ppb for trihalomethanes was defined by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment as a draft public health goal, the level of drinking water contaminant that does not pose a significant health risk. This health guideline protects against cancer.

Health risks of trichloroacetic acid in excess of health guideline

Cancer: The health guideline of 0.5 ppb for trichloroacetic acid was defined by the Environmental Protection Agency as a one-in-a-million lifetime risk of cancer. Values greater than one-in-a-million cancer risk level can result in increased cancer cases above one in a million people.

Contaminant Levels in Columbia, South Carolina Compared to Other Regions

Bromodichloromethane

- Health Guideline: 0.06 ppb

 - State: 6.50 ppb

 - Columbia, SC: 8.13 ppb

 - National: 4.38 ppb

Chlorate

 - Health Guideline: 210 ppb

 - State: 123.5 ppb

 - National: 114.0 ppb

 - Columbia, SC: 232.5 ppb

Chloroform

 - Health Guideline: 1.0 ppb

 - State: 16.6 ppb

 - National: 11.4 ppb

 - Columbia, SC: 21.8 ppb

Chromium (hexavalent)

 - Health Guideline: 0.02 ppb

 - Columbia, SC: 0.0886 ppb

 - State: 0.0866 ppb

 - National: 0.782 ppb

Dibromochloromethane 

  - Legal Limit: 4 ppb

 - State: 3.75 ppb

 - National: 0.440 ppb 

- Columbia, SC: 2.00 ppb

Dichloroacetic acid

 - Health Guideline: 0.7 ppb

 - State: 9.09 ppb

 - National: 6.00 ppb

 - Columbia, SC: 22.5 ppb

Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs)

 - Health Guideline: 0.8 ppb

 - State: 28.4 ppb

 - National: 23.4 ppb

 - Columbia, SC: 32.0 ppb

Trichloroacetic acid

 - Health Guideline: 0.5 ppb

 - State: 6.33 ppb

 - National: 4.93 ppb

 - Columbia, SC: 14.7 ppb

Fluoride

 - Legal Limit: 4 ppb

 - State: 0.491ppb

 - National: 0.440 ppb 

- Columbia, SC: 0.540 ppb

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April Jones

A Colorado based hiker, blogger, and water quality expert...

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