Water tunnel system built in 1920s undergoing $4.3M in repairs

Divers helping to repair aging Charleston water supply tunnel system
Updated: Apr. 13, 2021 at 6:00 PM EDT
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DORCHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - More than 30 miles from Charleston, divers are being used to repair a key piece of the Holy City’s infrastructure.

A multi-million dollar project is in the works involving the Edisto River-Goose Creek Tunnel, which starts near Givhans Ferry State Park in Dorchester County and is buried under suburban and rural parts of the Lowcountry.

Far before water reaches the sinks of hundreds of thousands of customers in the Charleston area, some of it travels through this tunnel on its way between the Edisto River and the Hanahan Water Treatment Plant in Berkeley County.

Construction on the tunnel began 93 years ago and Charleston Water System officials say that although the Edisto River has been a “very reliable source” of raw water, improvements are needed now.

“We are bringing power and remote control to the intake to allow us to operate these gates from the treatment plant 23 miles away at the push of the button,” CWS Source Water Manager Jason Thompson said.

The project involves replacing the original intake gates and screens along with repairing some of the tunnel’s shafts. Michael Melchers, an engineer for CWS, says that crews with at least five or six divers are working on the project’s underwater components so that the tunnel can remain in use during construction.

“It’s something we take for granted, for sure, that when you open the tap, there’s going to be enough pressure and quality water,” Melchers said. “There are a lot of people working hard behind the scenes to make sure that happens.”

Work on the project began last year. CWS expects this effort to cost $4.3 million and is looking to finish construction by the end of 2021. The cost is largely slated to be funded through bonds from 2019 and 2020.

“Though all infrastructure projects come with a price tag, it’s going to mean we continue to have safe drinking water of abundant supply for many years to come,” Thompson said. “That’s a big payoff for everybody that pays that water bill and has come to rely on safe drinking water coming to their house every day.”

Melchers said that customers should not see an impact from the project on their water bill and that their water quality should not be affected.

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