‘We have a critical situation’: Charleston Water officials warn of potential boil water notice

Published: Dec. 25, 2022 at 3:55 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 26, 2022 at 4:25 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston Water System issued a critical notice to its customers as they dealt with leaks and capacity problems over the weekend.

Water officials said over 400 customers reported their pipes have busted or frozen because of the cold overnight temperatures. That caused the pipes to actively leak, according to Charleston Water System spokesperson Mike Saia.

Because of all the leaking water, the Charleston Water System is producing 100 million gallons of water per day. The water utility company says they cannot safely produce much more.

Officials say there is a potential risk of a system-wide boil water notice. However, as of now, that notice has not been issued. A boil water notice is different from a precautionary boil water advisory because it requires boiling.

“It has a major impact on families who are home celebrating the holidays for businesses, especially hotels and restaurants,” Saia says.

A boil water notice could affect around half a million people across the greater Charleston area, according to Saia. And it is not just Charleston Water System customers, as municipalities who get their water through the Charleston Water System may also be affected by a notice.

“This is very basic and simple; it’s death by 1,000 cuts,” Saia says. “If we have hundreds or thousands of pipes leaking under people’s homes, that is a whole lot of water being lost. And those are just customers who called us, we have wholesale customers who are likely having the same issues. Especially, a lot of beach communities or homes that are simply unoccupied. So, if they’re bleeding out, we’re feeding those communities as they’re bleeding out, and it’s just putting more and more of a strain and demand on our water treatment.”

The Charleston Water System is asking you to test your water now.

“Right now, just listen to your pipes,” he says. “You can tell when the water is running in your home. If you don’t think anything’s running, you probably have a leak.”

If you experience a water leak, here are your options, according to Charleston Water:

  • Turn off at shutoff.
  • Turn water off at meter via water key.
  • Call Charleston Water System at 843 727-6800. They will shut it off at the meter - no charge.

Water officials also urge you to drip your faucets.

“If you haven’t started, drip your pipes, drip your faucets one drip per second,” he said. “Turn them on and save yourself a giant headache. You may help us save the community’s water supply.

A boil water notice has not been issued in the Charleston area in over 100 years, according to the Charleston Water System.

With cold temperatures expected overnight for the next few days, water officials say they will continue to monitor the situation.