SPARTANBURG – A Clemson University professor is working with Spartanburg officials to treat algae that is causing odor and taste issues with the city’s water supply.

An algaecide was added to Lake Bowen to fight algae

An algaecide was added to Lake Bowen to fight algae
Image Credit: South Carolina Department of Natural Resources

The Spartanburg Water System pulls water from two systems – Lake Bowen and a municipal reservoir – and has been dealing with odor and taste issues coming from this water. Two compounds causing the problem are naturally occurring alcohols that are produced by blue-green algae and diatoms. John Rodgers, director of Clemson’s Ecotoxicology Program, said an algaecide was applied in Lake Bowen July 12.

“The algaecide is Algimycin,” Rodgers said. “It is registered and certified for use in potable waters.”

Algimycin is registered by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and certified by the National Sanitation Foundation. There are no restrictions on swimming or other activities post-application.

The compounds are not hazardous to humans or animals, but they do produce bad smells and tastes. When smell and taste problems reach a level of concern, intervention is required.

“Humans are very sensitive to these compounds,” Rodgers said. “Ten parts per trillion is all takes for many humans to smell and/or taste these compounds.”

Rodgers and Spartanburg officials have developed a site-specific strategy for treating the algae. Rodgers said they soon should know more about how to treat the problem. They will continue monitoring the sites because change in constant in these water resources.

The compounds create musty, earthy smells, as can be detected when rich soils are overturned and in some foods such as beets, spinach and mushrooms.

A similar problem, involving the presence of geosmin and MIB similar compounds, recently occurred in Hartwell Lake. In June 2017, Clemson graduate student Tyler Geer helped the Anderson Regional Joint Water System develop an adaptive resource management program, using a copper-based algaecide, to control taste and water issues coming out of the Six and Twenty Cove of Hartwell Lake. This program involves continually monitoring and testing the water to keep track of algae growth, and to determine the most appropriate times to apply algaecides.

South Carolina isn’t the only area experiencing water issues. Water problems are occurring all over the United States. Rodgers said this is because more pressure is being put on water resources. Stresses on water supplies come from instances such as construction, industrial use, irrigation and storm runoff. Even shooting fireworks into water bodies can create problems. These stressors create nutrient pollution, mainly nitrogen and phosphorus, that can cause algae to grow faster than ecosystems can handle. Writing a water-use and management plan is something municipalities and anyone managing water resources should consider doing.

“We need to water to irrigate our crops and supply water for our livestock and things like that,” Rodgers said. “Businesses and industries need water to operate. And the general public requires the use of water. What people need to realize is that every ecosystem has a carrying capacity. An area can support only so many people and their actions.

“A water-use plan is valuable because it takes in to account the number of people and businesses in an area, determines how much water is needed, what water resources are available and how to manage these resources so that everyone at all socioeconomic levels benefits.”