When we turn on the tap to have a drink of water or open the drain to empty the bathtub, where does that water come from and where does it go? To begin with, we on Seabrook Island are very fortunate that some farsighted community members decided in the 1990s that they no longer wanted to have their water supply controlled by a private company or to fight their frequent rate increases, but instead wanted to have Seabrook Island’s water supply under local control. After a long, difficult struggle, the Town of Seabrook Island purchased the utility company and took over. Many Seabrookers purchased bonds to help finance the purchase. In 1995, the Town of Seabrook Island created by ordinance the Seabrook Island Utility Commission. The Utility Commission is responsible for overseeing all of the drinking water distribution and also wastewater treatment on Seabrook Island.
All of our water is treated by the Charleston Water System, is pumped onward to St Johns Island Water Company, who in turn sends the water on to Seabrook Island. It is held in three 500,000 gallon storage tanks, two at the treatment plant and the other in the elevated tank near the fire station. That tank provides the water pressure needed for our island. That’s the clean stuff that comes into our homes.
The other “stuff” that leaves our homes and businesses is all treated at the plant which is on the property near the maintenance area off Seabrook Island Road. There are multiple tanks, aeration basins, clarifying tanks and chlorine contact holding basins. The treated water (which is not potable but meets the standards for irrigation use) is finally sent to a twenty million gallon reservoir on this large piece of property. All of this water is designated for use on the golf course for irrigation and is sent directly from the reservoir there. No water leaves the treatment plant and enters any local stream or waterway.
The original water treatment plant was built in the 1970’s but is constantly being upgraded and it meets all DHEC standards. There are many pumping stations located all over the island that collect sewage and pump it to the treatment plant. Some of them have backup generators and more are being ordered in case of prolonged power outages.
The Seabrook Island Utility Commission reports to the Town Council and its members are appointed to 6-year terms. Currently, Jim Bannwart is Chairman and the Commissioners are Lee Vancini and Tim Morawski. An engineering background, preferably with utility experience, is desired to fill a commissioner position. A background in finance is important for the third commissioner.
We should be very grateful for those forward-thinking Seabrookers who led the battle to acquire the water company. Our rates remain lower than some surrounding islands because of their efforts.
Tidelines Staff Writer