How much do you know about your drinking water? With the current focus on health, are you finding yourself asking, “Is my water safe to drink?” It is natural to want the best for you and your family. If you live anywhere in Lexington County, SC, this guide will give you the answers you need about your water.
Where does the water here come from?
Getting water service in Lexington County SC can be a nightmare. Sometimes even your realtor or landlord might not know which water utility you should go to for service. That confusion also makes a difference in how to educate yourself about your water quality. So, before we dig into the specifics about your drinking water, let’s talk about where your water might come from.
Depending on where you live in Lexington County, your water could come from Lake Murray or the Saluda River. There is also a treatment plant on the other side of the lake that is operated by Columbia, SC.
Most of the drinking water for Lexington County is sourced and initially treated by the City of West Columbia. West Columbia operates two water treatment plants, one at each surface water source. The city itself is served by the Saluda River, while most of the county is served by Lake Murray. You can learn about how West Columbia treats water at their plants prior to distribution by reading below.
Although the water treatment plants belong to the City of West Columbia, each water utility is responsible for their own pipes, sewers, and distribution systems. That means that each utility must do their own water quality testing, and you will want to get your water quality information directly from your utility.
Even though only West Columbia treats water, the EPA requires that each water utility do their own testing and annual water quality report.
The Town of Lexington and the Joint Municipal Water and Sewer Commission (JMWSC) both obtain their water from distribution points in the water system from Lake Murray. These two organizations provide water to most of Lexington County. You can learn more about their infrastructure below.
The three Lexington County water utilities are not connected in any way, and they are not all forthcoming in details about water quality. It is even harder to educate yourself when it is so difficult to know which water utility you should be watching. We created this guide to try to make it easier for you to stay informed and keep your family safe.
In order to get your Lexington County water quality report and information, you’ll need to know which water utility is responsible for servicing your address. Unfortunately, the different water utilities are unable to assist you if your address does not come up in their service area. To help you find your water utility, here is a helpful chart from Lexington County SC.
Is the water in the city safe to drink?
According to federal, state, and local water quality reports, your Lexington or West Columbia tap water is perfectly safe to drink. In fact, in some ways, your water quality is better than that in nearby Columbia. Even if your water doesn’t taste or smell pleasant, it is still safe to drink according to EPA and state guidelines.
Of course, even in the safest of water utilities, problems can arise in the form of water main breaks and other infrastructure or flooding issues. When these occur, the treatment plant issues a boil order, requiring you to boil your water before using it to ensure that it is safe.
Boil orders can occur due to:
- Loss of pressure in water mains or distribution system
- Natural and weather phenomenon, such as flooding
- Unscheduled power outages
You need to make sure that you are watching boil orders from your specific water utility. If there is a boil order at one of the treatment plants that affects your water, you will still be notified through your local water department. Lexington news media is very good about distributing information about water quality, particularly boil order announcements.
Are there active boil water advisories or similar quality advisories for the area?
Currently there are # boil orders in Lexington and West Columbia.
At this time there aren’t any active boil orders, and they happen fairly infrequently, once every few months. Often these boil orders are due to scheduled maintenance on the lines.
Not sure which Lexington County boil orders you should be looking at? Use our handy tool below to locate your water utility.
To see active boil orders in West Columbia click here.
Sign up to receive active boil orders in the Town of Lexington click here.
To see active boil orders, the Joint Municipal Water, and Sewer Commission click here.
Is it hard water?
Water hardness is measured by the amount of calcium and magnesium in the water. These minerals can buildup in your plumbing and appliances over time, requiring repair or replacement.
Unfortunately, none of the Lexington County SC water utilities are really transparent about their water quality. The water quality reports for each utility must contain certain information by EPA guidelines, but water hardness is not one of the required pieces of information. Most Lexington residents would agree that South Carolina’s rating of moderately soft is close to accurate for the area.
Lexington and West Columbia Drinking Water Taste and Odor Issues
There has been an ongoing issue with the Lexington water supply due to algae blooms and spikes in organic matter in the source water of Lake Murray. These issues cause the water to taste and smell unpleasant, but they don’t necessarily make your water unsafe. This interview with a local chemist explains best how algae blooms affect the drinking water, and why it is still safe to drink.
Back in April 2020, the Joint Municipal Water & Sewer Commission (JMWSC) issued a press release about what they are doing to address the odor and taste issues from treated water from Lake Murray. In the press release, they assured water utility customers that the water is safe to drink even though it isn’t aesthetically pleasing. But they are still working on an assessment of the water treatment processes to determine how best to address the issue.
In the meantime, the Town of Lexington, City of West Columbia, the JMWSC, the University of South Carolina and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) are all working together to test the water from Lake Murray and the treatment plant to ensure that harmful chemicals from algae do not enter the water supply, and to find new treatment methods to correct the problem in the long-term.
To improve the taste and odor of your water, the JMWSC recommends that you run tap water into a pitcher and refrigerate it overnight for use the next day.
What levels of what monitored substances are in the water supply?
Are these levels considered safe?
The truth is that there are a number of substances in your drinking water, but they are largely harmless in small quantities. It is impossible to eliminate all of these substances from drinking water completely. There are federal, state, and local guidelines and requirements for monitoring the water supply for contaminants.
The EPA establishes requirements for monitoring 90 substances in the water supply, including acceptable levels. The state of South Carolina also has its own regulations that are often more strict than the EPA guidelines.
You can get some more detailed information about these regulations and how they apply to drinking water from Lake Murray by seeing our more detailed water quality report for Columbia, SC.
The three different Lexington County water utilities each perform their own testing of water quality, in addition to currently ongoing research and testing by the University and the DHEC. Each water utility must report on their own findings for their water distribution systems. Even though the water quality at the source and treatment plant are important, it is the substance testing reports for your specific utility that will give you the clearest picture of your water quality.
These tests are conducted frequently, with average reporting levels published annually in the EPA required Consumer Confidence Report or Annual Water Quality Report. Each water utility must do their own testing and furnish their own report.
All three water utilities have reported some level, within acceptable range, of the following regulated substances:
- Haloacetic acids
- Total organic carbon
The City of West Columbia 2019 Water Quality Report breaks down the levels and acceptable ranges for each of the treatment plants, as well as their own distribution systems.
The Town of Lexington lists the substances found in their testing on their 2019 report, found here.
The Joint Municipal Water and Sewer Commission’s report breaks down reported levels for each distribution point and the treatment plant so that residents can get the clearest picture of their water quality. Find their 2019 report here.
How is it treated?
The City of West Columbia uses the same treatment methods for both of their surface water treatment plants, and from there the water is distributed to the different water utilities throughout the county. The Treatment Process:
- Water is pumped into the treatment plant from the source.
- Powdered activated carbon (PAC) is mixed into the water to absorb natural and organic matter. (This is especially important due to the algae blooms discussed above.)
- Polyaluminum Chloride (PALI) is then rapidly mixed into the water to form with organic matter to make bigger particles that are easier to filter.
- Water is flowed into the flocculation basins, where the floc can become even bigger for better filtration.
- The water is moved to sedimentation basins, where the floc settles to the bottom before the water is filtered through large filters made up of layers of anthracite, sand, and gravel.
- The water is then disinfected, pH balanced, and fortified with fluoride before entering the distribution system.
Although the water utilities are each responsible for maintaining their pipes and distribution systems, which can affect water quality, the actual treatment process is handled completely at the two plants run by the City of West Columbia for the entirety of the county.
When was the last time serious maintenance or inspection was done on the system? What were the results?
The last major change to the water treatment and distribution systems was in 2016 when West Columbia had to address a water health safety concern right away. The water supply contained a harmful compound that was developed during the filtration and disinfection process due to an excessive amount of organic material in the source water.
To address the issue, the City updated their treatment plant at Lake Murray by moving the intake point to just before the filter. That means the organic matter is being filtered out before the chlorine is added so that the harmful chemicals are not produced.
Due to the odor and taste issues from the algae blooms, the county’s water utilities have been working on assessing the treatment plants and distribution systems. Together with university experts and state agencies, they are working on researching and testing new treatment and filter options.
Worried about your water quality?
We will be more than happy to come out to your home and test your water quality. It is a very simple and fast test, and we can use the results to make plumbing and appliance recommendations. Contact us today to learn more.