JAMES ISLAND, S.C. (WCSC) – The Charleston Water System will be spending millions of dollars over the coming years to make sure its wastewater system can handle the Lowcountry’s continued growth.
The upgrades are happening to the Plum Island Wastewater Treatment Plant on James Island.
Charleston Water System spokesperson Mike Saia said they want to double the amount of sewage the plant can handle in the coming years.
“Currently, Plum Island sees about 25 million gallons of wastewater on average, and we are permitted to have 36 million gallons per day,” Saia said. “Eventually, in the future, this plant will be upgraded to handle 54 million gallons a day.”
The Charleston Water System said they are spending between $75 million and $100 million to make sure the wastewater system can handle the rapid growth.
“Construction is constant here,” Saia said. “That’s related to two things: maintenance of the plant and the exponential growth that we’ve seen in Charleston in the past and we expect to see in the future.”
Charleston Waterkeeper Executive Director Andrew Wunderley said plants like Plum Island are vital to the community’s health in more ways than people may think.
“A regional wastewater system like that is the absolute best way to handle human sewage and treat it, so it doesn’t impact the water quality and doesn’t impact human health,” Wunderley said.
The water system said they are targeting redundancy and reliability efforts as part of the upgrades, so whenever a problem happens, they can respond quickly to fix it.
“When redundancy kicks in, we can move in, fix the problem without having to stop the plant, without having to have sewer overflows or backups in the community and get things back to normal without anyone noticing or skipping a beat,” Saia said.
Wunderley said before the plant was built in the 1970s, all of the sewage from the Charleston area was dumped into the harbor without any treatment, polluting it with bacteria and human waste.
In the years since, the bacteria levels in the harbor have gone down significantly.
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