Greenville Water System has reopened its Table Rock Reservoir, which provides more than 2 million gallons of drinking water per month to Greenville County residents.
Company officials decided to resume water withdrawal from the reservoir after “numerous samples revealed no change in the water quality following the Pinnacle Mountain fire,” according to a press release.
“While we anticipated these sampling results, we are very pleased to see them in black and white. These results validate that we are doing everything correctly in our watershed and we will continue to provide quality water and a sustainable future for our customers,” Greenville Water CEO David Bereskin said.
On Nov. 18, the company stopped using water from the reservoir due to a large-scale burnout operation on Nov. 17 that covered about 2,000 acres, from Back Park Road to South Saluda Road and north to Table Rock Reservoir, according to Greenville Water Chief Operating Officer Rebecca West.
“The burnout created piles of soot in the area that could have ended up in the reservoir due to heavy rain showers and erosion,” she said.
The burnout was conducted to stop the Pinnacle Mountain fire from spreading further in Greenville Water’s Table Rock Watershed. The fire, which began in early November and was finally contained last month, burned 10,645 acres in Pickens County and cost $4.8 million.
After the burnout operation, Greenville Water withdrew and distributed drinking water from its North Saluda Reservoir and Lake Keowee and worked with Clemson University to test water samples from its Table Rock Reservoir for increased amounts of total organic carbon, a measure of the carbon contained within soil organic matter.
The company also constructed silt fencing around the reservoir to prevent water contamination from occurring.
Now that Greenville Water has begun using the reservoir again, there could be a slight difference in the taste of the water as decades of filtering foliage near the reservoir have been burned, said Olivia Vassey, communications manager for Greenville Water. The fire burned more than 7,000 acres in the Greenville Water System Watershed.
“While the fire spread throughout more than 70 percent of the watershed, it hasn’t consumed all of the land. Sure, some of the watershed trees and understory brush were burned up, but it really hit in spots,” West said. “We’re expecting to see a green watershed in the spring, because nutrients from the dead trees will act as fertilizer.”
Watershed Manager Henry Poole said, “It’s hard to tell there was a fire in some places.”
He added that the South Carolina Forestry Commission and several other agencies, including Greenville Water and S.C. Department of Natural Resources, have begun addressing erosion in the watershed. That operation includes cleaning out stream crossings to restore the natural flow of water, planting grass seed, repairing grades and installing dips and water bars in the ground to direct rainwater and prevent further erosion.
Poole said the operation would “continue over the next few weeks.”