Florence water system stabilizes, heads toward recovery

September 27, 2018

FLORENCE, S.C. – The city of Florence is not yet ready to declare its water problems solved, but the water pressure in the system is now headed in the right direction.

The city was able to start its surface water plant at approximately 9 p.m. Wednesday and, as of late Thursday morning, it was operating at 3 million to 4 million gallons per day, Florence city manager Drew Griffin said.

“It will take a few days. We will have a better gauge tomorrow morning,” Griffin said of the city’s water system’s health.

Water pressure in the city’s system dropped starting at approximately 4 a.m. Wednesday and left many customers without service.

The worst-hit areas of the city were the northeast and northwest areas, and all customers north of Palmetto Street (U.S. 76) were placed under a boil-water advisory as a result. The soonest the advisory could be lifted would be after 9 p.m. this evening.

Griffin said the culprit was Hurricane Florence, which left the Great Pee Dee River an ever-changing challenge for the city to use as a water source.

“With the effects of (Hurricane) Florence, the [Great] Pee Dee River has changed dramatically in water quality both as a result of debris and sediment in the river itself but also in the chemical makeup of the river and the alkalinity of the river,” Florence Mayor Stephen Wukela said during a Wednesday afternoon news conference to address the water situation. “That has wreaked havoc as our treatment plant has tried to keep up with the changing water and its effects.”

The surface water plant provides 4 million to 5 million gallons per day of the city’s demand of 10 million to 12 million gallons per day, Griffin and Wukela indicated during the news conference.

The drop in pressure caused Florence One Schools to close along with Florence-Darlington Technical College and the Drs. Bruce & Lee Foundation Library on South Dargan Street. Students at Florence One Schools started classes two hours late Thursday.

The biggest problem for schools is that their bathroom fixtures are designed to work on high pressure and low volume to conserve water. Without pressure in the 40-50 psi range, the fixtures don’t function.

As of Thursday morning, water in the system had risen from a psi in the mid-30s to the high 40s, Griffin said.

“We are monitoring the system, and it appears to be stable and is recovering,” Griffin said.

Griffin said that all the high-volume users in the city were also online and not reporting any problems.

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