Orangeburg’s Department of Public Utilities has issued a number of boil water advisories following water main breaks in recent weeks.
DPU’s spokesman says the advisories are being issued in an effort to exercise extra caution when contamination is possible.
"Generally speaking, as cold weather moves in, we see an increase in water main breaks as well as service line leaks," DPU spokesman Randy Etters said.
"In an abundance of caution, DPU made an operational decision several years ago to issue these advisories, even under conditions that would normally not be required,” by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, he said.
Under a boil water advisory, customers are asked to boil water for one full minute before it’s to be used for cooking or drinking. The advisories are lifted after the pipe is fixed and the water has been tested.
Notices are often issued through local media outlets when repairs to a pipe are needed that will impact more than 50 customers. Etters said an automated call system will soon be implemented to notify customers as well.
"It is our intent to protect our customers at all times, and notices such as these only serve to assist in that mission," Etters said.
Etters said boil water advisories are issued any time the pressure in a water main drops below 10 pounds per square inch.
A sudden drop in pressure can draw contaminants into a water line, according to the City of Irving, Texas website.
"Water main breaks can occur from many different causes such as damage by contractors digging or boring, colder water temperatures which cause water mains to constrict and sometimes break, saturated grounds that may settle causing the pipe to crack, age of infrastructure, material type, or in the case of our most recent main break, a vehicle driving off the side of the road and running over a valve box, which in turn broke the water main," Etters said.
Etters said the utility understands the importance of maintaining its water infrastructure.
DPU has $600,000 allocated in its budget this year to replace approximately two miles of aging pipe, Etters said.
"We have spent several million dollars over the past 10 years replacing aging infrastructure such as pipes, valves, pump stations etc. to keep our system operating at the best we possibly can for our customers," he said.
The utility has more than 600 miles of pipe, with some installed in the early 1900s.
"Much of the older cast iron pipe was rehabilitated with new cement lining around 1997," he said.
Etters said the utility does take steps to help lessen the need for boil water advisories.
"We generally try not to shut the water off and thereby keep positive pressure inside the pipe," he said. "As long as there is positive pressure inside the pipe, this keeps contamination from entering the water main."
In order to eliminate the impact, crews isolate the damaged section of water main.
"During the repair, every effort is made to ensure we keep the pipe clean and the open section of pipe along with any new material or repair fittings are disinfected prior to placing the water main back in service," Etters said. "Once the water main is in service, the affected area is flushed to displace all of the water that was left in the line and bring new water back in its place.
“After this, we take a water sample to verify the water is safe for consumption."