Owner system

Charleston Water System will spend $75 million to $100 million on upgrades to accommodate growing population

JAMES ISLAND, SC (WCSC) — Charleston’s water system will spend millions of dollars over the next few years to ensure its wastewater system can handle the Lowcountry’s continued growth.

Improvements are underway at the Plum Island Wastewater Treatment Plant on James Island.

Charleston Water System spokesman Mike Saia said he wants to double the amount of wastewater the plant can handle in the coming years.

“Plum Island currently sees about 25 million gallons of sewage on average, and we are allowed to have 36 million gallons per day,” Saia said. “Ultimately, going forward, this plant will be upgraded to handle 54 million gallons per day.”

The Charleston Water System said it is spending between $75 million and $100 million to ensure the sewer system can handle the rapid growth.

“Construction is constant here,” Saia said. “It’s tied to two things: plant maintenance and the exponential growth we’ve seen in Charleston in the past and expect to see in the future.”

Charleston Waterkeeper executive director Andrew Wunderley said plants like Plum Island are vital to the health of the community in more ways than people realize.

“A regional sewage treatment system like this is the absolute best way to manage human sewage and treat it so that it does not affect water quality and does not affect human health,” Wunderley said.

The water system said it aims for redundancy and reliability efforts as part of the upgrades, so that whenever a problem arises, it can respond quickly to fix it.

“When redundancy kicks in, we can move in, fix the problem without having to shut down the plant, without having to have sewer overflows or community backups and get things back to normal without anyone notices or skips a beat,” Saia said.

Wunderley said that before the plant was built in the 1970s, all wastewater from the Charleston area was dumped into the harbor without any treatment, polluting it with bacteria and human waste.

In the years that followed, the levels of bacteria in the harbor dropped dramatically.

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