Several Rincon residents had plenty of questions on Rincon’s water supplies at a public hearing Tuesday night.
Resident Anneliese Brandenburg asked why factories in the county use groundwater when residents are being forced to use surface water.
Councilman Ken Baxley replied that the city has no power over industry water sources and that the best way to address the issue is through her legislator.
“We don’t disagree,” he told her.
Another resident asked about the costs to residents for the new changes. City Engineer Tim Baumgartner responded that the city and county are still working out the costs.
Resident Beth Brooks asked about tritium in the surface water.
“Let me say, first, Savannah does not put tritium in the water,” Savannah Industrial and Domestic Water Facility’s John Sawyer asserted.
He added that even groundwater has trace amounts of radioactive contaminants and that the mere presence of tritium is not the issue, but rather long-term drinking of water with high amounts of it.
Sawyer explained that people are exposed to radiation from a variety of sources every day.
The typical amount of tritium in Savannah’s surface water is 3.8 percent of the maximum the Environmental Protection Agency allows.
Sawyer stressed that the water is safe to drink.
"I drink this water every day,” he noted, and said he has been doing so for 15 years now.
He said if he thought for one minute that the water was unsafe he would not drink it.
Dave Hickey of Key Contact Inc. explained the current status of Rincon’s water supply and the city’s need to find another source.
The state Environmental Protection Division’s limits on withdrawals from the upper Floridan Aquifer has forced the city to use surface water. In addition, EPD required the city to use this source in 2002.
In the short term, surface water treated with chloramines will be delivered to residents living in the southern part of the city. North Rincon residents will continue to use groundwater treated with chlorine.
The reason for the split is that supplying the south side with surface water is easiest and cheapest.
Baumgartner said this is a short-term solution. In the long term, the city plans to use a blended water supply of both ground and surface water, both treated with chloramine.
Rincon is working an agreement with Effingham County to provide surface water. Effingham County gets its surface water from Savannah I&D.
Baumgartner said that this is simply the first of more public hearings expected on surface water.