Richburg issues do not drink order to public after herbicide discovered in water
RICHBURG, S.C. - It could be Monday or Tuesday before hundreds of people in Chester County can drink their water again.
The Chester Metropolitan District warned residents not to drink or cook with the water in Richburg because of concerns about a chemical herbicide that might have gotten into the system.
The concern comes from a small pond outside the company, Foot Print off of Highway 9, that makes packaging material.
The pond is a large water supply in case of a fire.
An herbicide known as flumioxazin is put in the pond to kill algae.
Officials said that a backflow valve in the system failed, which is designed to keep the pond water out of the public water system.
The failure may have allowed some pond water and possibly the herbicide into the system.
"I wouldn't encourage anybody to drink it until we tell you that it's safe to drink," said Fred Castles, who heads the Chester Metropolitan District. "We issued this warning out of an abundance of caution."
Castles said the chemical is not considered dangerous, but they want to make sure there are still no trace amounts in the water supply.
The do not drink warning affects 250 customers in Richburg, which is about 700 people.
It does not affect residents on Highway 9.
Utility company employees took bottled water door-to-door to residents and left more at the Richburg Fire Department for those affected by the advisory.
Gerald Hensley and his wife Patricia received some bottled water that was delivered to their door. He said that utility employees contacted them and explained the situation.
"They made real effort to contact people and these were live individuals that were making the phone calls. So, they were concerned that you weren't drinking that water," Hensley said.
Officials are flushing out fire hydrants near the plant and on the half-dozen streets in the area.
The chemical herbicide is considered mildly toxic and looks blue in water, which makes it easy to see.
Officials said that they found some blue water in the plant and at a residence but are still testing other places to be sure the chemical is not present.
"We've flushed for the last three days. We've been sampling, and we're sending samples off tomorrow to California," Castles said.
He expects to have results by the end of the weekend.
If they get the all-clear, residents will be contacted and told the water is safe.