SC

South Carolina Water Supply In Violation Of Federal Standards

“The tap water is f*cking brown …”

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A quasi-governmental entity responsible for providing drinking water to more than 150,000 South Carolinians has accidentally intensified a corrosive, cancer-causing chemical with the help of chlorinated disinfectants. 

On December 29, 2023, the Beaufort-Jasper Water and Sewer Authority (BJWSA) issued a “news flash” to residents north of the Savannah River — confessing to federal water violations actively flowing through their Purrysburg Treatment Plant in Hardeeville, S.C.

According to BJWSAs notice, some residents have been ingesting an excess of five disinfection byproducts (DBPs) known to induce mutations and DNA damage while increasing the risk of liver and bladder cancer among laboratory animals and humans.

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PICK YOUR POISON …

Posted by a resident of Alston Park on May 16, 2023.
(Facebook)

Haloacetic acids (HAAs) are the second most prevalent group of DBPs in the United States — inadvertently created when utility providers add chlorine to kill pathogenic microorganisms in surface water. 

While the National Toxicology Program recognizes the existence of thirteen HAAs in chlorinated drinking water nationwide, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) only regulates five which are collectively referred to as HAA5.

According to the EPA, the federal limit for HAA5 in drinking water is 0.060 milligrams per liter (mg/L) — a “legally enforceable” federal regulation established by the agency … in 1998.

Unfortunately, the regulated limit does not “fully” protect against multiple cancers or fetal defects, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) which presumes that 0.0001 mg/L is the only nonvolatile level for these acids.

The EWG further reports that 174 utility providers across 26 states were in violation of the EPAs “legally enforceable” standard between 2017 and 2019 — effectively poisoning 272,000 people without consequence during that timeframe. 

Last year, BJWSA drifted beyond the national standard with HAA5 levels intensifying across the Broad River service area. Simultaneously, the utility failed to curtail water discoloration caused by a separate chemical element. 

(Click to View)

Posted by a resident of Plantation Point in September 2023.
(Nextdoor)

Manganese is a naturally-occurring metal commonly found in rocks, soil, food, infant formula and universal drinking water. According to the National Library of Medicine (NLM), manganese is “absolutely necessary” for human health and wellbeing. 

Despite the evidence-based benefits of ingesting manganese in small amounts, longterm exposure to excessive concentrations could result in a neurological disorder enigmatic to Parkinson’s disease called manganism

Fear not, though, as the EPAs unenforced health advisory is intended to protect against the trembling, stiffness, loss of motor movement, “potentially” severe depression, anxiety and hostility resulting from this irreversible condition.

Manganese is noticeably visible in water levels at concentrations greater than 0.05 mg/L. At this level, tap water has a brown, ascetic discoloration while leaving mineral deposits in sinks and bathroom fixtures. 

Did we mention the EPAs health advisory level for manganese in drinking water is 0.3 mg/L? Or that infants are “uniquely vulnerable” to neurodevelopment issues when exposed to these levels before six months of age?

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“JUST OLD PIPES …”

Posted by a resident of The Haven in September 2023.
(Nextdoor)

Customers say BJWSA has knowingly pumped excessive levels of manganese throughout Beaufort County for months. This, documented by residents across May River Preserve, Alston Park, Pine Ridge, Plantation Point, Heritage, Cypress Ridge, The Haven, The Willows and The Farm at Buckwalter respectively. 

“The bottom line is that we have brown water,” said Casey Kammer, a homeowner in Alston Park. “In September of 2023, I called an engineer with BJWSA who told me that it was ‘just old pipes’ but that it’s okay to drink. Now they’re telling us it’s manganese? All the while council is pushing for more rezoning and developments?”

Kammer has since referred us to post after post after post across Facebook and Nextdoor — detailing BJWSAs chronic failure to residents since at least 2018.

No worries, though, as the utility provider attempted to oxidize the excessive levels of manganese with chlorine dioxide during last year’s third quarter monitoring period which then exacerbated HAA5 levels.

Or at least that’s what health officials “believe” happened …

According to BJWSA, HAA5 levels skyrocketed to 0.061 mg/L within the same quarter of adding chlorine dioxide at the Purrysburg Treatment Plant. Crudely speaking, HAA5 levels were approximately 610 times greater than EWGs recommended health guideline.

(Click to View)

Posted by a resident of The Willows in September 2023.
(Nextdoor)

Come fourth quarter monitoring period, the utility provider’s HAA5 levels jumped again … to 0.069 mg/L at the Rose Dhu Creek sample site. If you recall, 0.060 mg/L is the US EPAs “legally enforceable,” bare minimum standard for HAA5 in drinking water.

“This is not an emergency,” wrote BJWSA officials in December. “At this time, there is no need for you to take any action. Alternative water sources are not necessary. However, if you have specific health concerns, you may choose to consult your doctor.”

Did we mention that 23 unrelated contaminants were identified in BJWSAs water supply in 2021? Or that ten of those cancer-causing contaminants — including HAA5 — exceeded EWG health guidelines by egregious degrees within the same timeframe? 

As of publication, Beaufort County residents are still grappling with discoloration from manganese which — to everyone’s understanding — is still infected with abhorrent levels of HAA5.

Or at least that is what the utility provider maintains …

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“BJWSA continues to resample water throughout the distribution system and is closely monitoring the levels of DBPs including HAA5s,” the official notice concluded. “We will continue to update you quarterly until tests indicate our four-quarter average is below the compliance limit.”

While Beaufort County residents have yet to receive any such updates from BJWSA, count on our media outlet to keep you informed of the Lowcountry’s water levels and subsequent contaminants.

In the interim, check out which countertop water filters EWG recommends in 2024 — especially if BJWSA is your utility provider. Unless, of course, you believe “alternative water sources are not necessary.”

Finally, if you know of similar cases deserving of investigative scrutiny, please reach out to this media outlet. We’re not only committed to exposing nefarious activity within government — but steadfast on holding our publicly funded services accountable.

UPDATE |  According to BJWSA, they currently meet the EPA limit for manganese. They maintain that water discoloration is due to mineral build-up and/or “disturbance” in their pipes. As for HAA5 levels, they are “back to normal” … at 0.031 mg/L — approximately 300 times greater than EWGs recommended health guideline.

There is no need for customers to take action; the risk is based on exposure to elevated levels over many years. BJWSA is governed by USEPA regulations and we are continuing to work closely with South Carolina DHEC. Please note this is not a public health emergency; the public notice was issued as required and to inform customers.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Andrew Fancher (Travis Bell)

Andrew Fancher is a Lone Star Emmy award-winning journalist from Dallas, Texas. Cut from a bloodline of outlaws and lawmen alike, he was the first of his family to graduate college which was accomplished with honors. Got a story idea or news tip for Andy? Email him directly and connect with him socially across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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4 comments

Bad Water Company February 2, 2024 at 5:53 pm

Sounds like they are trying to compete with Carolina Water, aka Utilities Inc, aka Blue Granite, for the crappy, unsafe, water award.

Reply
Brenda Trammell February 2, 2024 at 10:02 pm

I live in Union, Union County South Carolina. Our water has been discolored for months now. I don’t recall any notices or warning in my area. After reading this article, my husband did further research on manganese and realized our health has been adversely affected by this water situation. What can we do to make sure this situation is corrected?
Thank you so much for this information!
My husband is an avid follower of your website.

Reply
Alexa, Play the National Anthem, Max Volume February 5, 2024 at 9:18 am

“What can we do to make sure this situation is corrected?”

The most American thing you can possibly do – file a lawsuit.

Reply
Jeff Mattox Top fan February 4, 2024 at 7:24 am

I remember many years ago how much I assumed that today I realize was actually misplaced trust. Water, specifically tap water, is one of those things I just assumed was clean and good for consumption. I assumed our great, loving, caring government with all it’s power and resources ensured that we all had safe water. The reality is that trusting government makes an “ass” out of “U” and “me”.
Reagan coined a term long ago when signing a treaty with the Soviet Union and it applies to anything and everything government has a hand in. Reagan was right when he said “trust but verify” in order to confirm if it is the truth or a lie.

Reply

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