Charleston Water System ‘only a few steps away from a catastrophe’

A “perfect storm” of frigid temperatures and the holidays has caused a water crisis in the Lowcountry, according to officials with the Charleston Water System.
Published: Dec. 26, 2022 at 4:56 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 26, 2022 at 6:49 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A “perfect storm” of frigid temperatures and the holidays has caused a water crisis in the Lowcountry, according to officials with the Charleston Water System.

“We are absolutely still in a crisis, and frankly only a few steps away from a catastrophe that would be a boil water notice,” Charleston Water System spokesperson Mike Saia said.

Currently, 100 million gallons of water a day are being used in the Lowcountry, while normally they use about 30 to 45 million gallons. That’s 50 to 60 million gallons of water being spilled mostly due to leaking pipes, broken irrigation systems and other effected systems.

Saia said that if the number gets to 105 or 110 million gallons of use, that will exceed the plant’s ability to treat the water adequately and they would need to issue a boil water notice.

READ MORE: Protecting your pipes and home ahead of drop in temperatures

Saia said many people in the Lowcountry have not insulated their pipes and have not been dripping their pipes overnight. With the holidays, many are away from their homes and businesses. If residents have an issue, plumbers are unavailable.

Antonio Inzillo is one of the many Lowcountry families dealing with burst pipes this week. On Christmas morning, he noticed water spraying all over the side of his Goose Creek home. He said he felt helpless, especially because he has a three-year-old.

Inzillo has been calling plumbers for 24 hours, but no one has answered the phone. With research and the help of friends and neighbors, he’s been trying to fix it on his own.

“We have a 3-year-old. I don’t want to make him suffer on Christmas. I don’t want to suffer on Christmas, I’m sure you don’t. I guess the most helpless thing is not having an answer and not knowing what to do,” Inzillo said.

One of the biggest issues they’re seeing right now is broken irrigation systems. If you have an irrigation system in your yard, this is the time to disconnect it from your water supply even if you do not have a leak.

Saia said customers are the cause and solution of the current situation. He says thousands upon thousands of lines have busted under people’s homes. The water system is dealing with a huge backlog and 200 to 400 calls a day. But he says that number is actually astronomically higher because phone lines are jammed.

“We urge everyone to check your home, check a business or a building that you may not have been to in a while,” Saia said. “Check for a water leak, running water under your home. You often can hear it in the pipes in the building, and if you find it, turn that water off using your shutoff valve, which is typically located in a hose bibb closest to your water meter. If you can’t do that, open the lid on the water meter, there’s a little nut in there, a quarter turn on that will turn it off. If you can’t do either of those, the most important thing to do at that point is to call us.”

Right now, the water is safe, according to Saia.

“We’re hoping not to get to boil water notice,” Saia said. “But that has major implications in your home, restaurants, hotels. It would require about three, maybe three and a half days of boiling water for use of doing dishes or brushing your teeth or cooking.”

Customers need to solve their leaks in the next two or three days because the warmer temperatures could bring additional water main breaks, according to Saia.