Hilton Head loses another well to saltwater intrusion

Hilton Head Public Service District has lost another well to saltwater intrusion, according to a news release Friday.

The Front Gate Well, near the entrance to Hilton Head Plantation off William Hilton Parkway, will be taken off line, to be used only for firefighting and other emergencies. There will be no interruption in customers' water service as a result of the shutdown, the release said.

Salt water has been entering the freshwater Upper Floridan Aquifer since 2000, causing the district to lose six wells. The district expects to lose its five remaining wells by 2020.

Studies show saltwater intrusion is caused by over-pumping of the aquifer in the Savannah area, the release said, and that the intrusion is advancing at about 350 feet a year from Port Royal Sound through the district's service area in the north- and mid-island.

"The PSD's Front Gate Well is yet another casualty of the Savannah region's over-pumping of the Upper Floridan Aquifer," said district general manager Richard Cyr. "Hilton Head PSD and its customers once again are faced with the loss of our drinking-water supply as a result of the degradation of the natural resource of the aquifer."

The district built a reverse-osmosis drinking-water plant that opened in 2009 to replace the lost water supply.

It also plans to borrow $4 million to build an aquifer storage and recovery well and to upgrade the district's water-improvement system. The recovery system will store water in the aquifer during the winter months of lower demand and withdraw it during the summer months of higher demand.

The district plans to buy the water from the Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority, which draws from the Savannah River.

The storage and recovery well, along with other planned improvements to the district, led the district to raise taxes 12 percent in September.

The increase translates into about $11 per year on a home assessed at $400,000.

The plant will be built at the district's site in Hilton Head Plantation near Royal James Drive and should be working by summer 2013.

The district has said a second underground storage unit probably will be needed by 2017.