Tap water in northern Beaufort County should return to its normal taste and smell soon, according to the Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority.
On Sunday, the authority quit using water from its reservoir, where a chemical caused by algae was imparting an earthy or musty taste to the water leaving the Chelsea Water Treatment Plant in Okatie.
BJWSA has been drawing water only from the plant's canal since then, according to a BJWSA news release Wednesday, and water at the plant is returning to its normal taste and odor.
Tests throughout the canal and reservoir showed a chemical produced by algae from the Savannah River, the utility's water source, was primarily in the reservoir, the release said. The tests revealed elevated levels of geosmin, which was causing the odor and taste but is not harmful to humans, BJWSA spokesman Matt Brady has said.
The utility will drain the reservoir to eliminate the chemical, and officials are devising a way to do that without allowing the water to flow back into the canal, Brady said.
Closing the reservoir doesn't affect the amount of water the plant can deliver, and the reservoir could still be tapped if BJWSA needs reserves, Brady said. Bypassing the reservoir is not expected to cost the utility more money, he added.
BJWSA has 60,000 to 80,000 customers in northern Beaufort County communities, including Burton, Beaufort and Port Royal, as well as St. Helena and Lady's islands. Customers in Okatie and on Callawassie and Spring islands also were affected.
In the past two months, BJWSA has received more than 200 complaints, Brady said.
"Typically, we get about 250 water quality complaints in a year," Brady said. "So this did cause our customers an inconvenience, for which we apologize and appreciate their patience. This is still our primary focus, and we'll continue working on it."
Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.