Many of you have probably heard of the project to deepen the Savannah River, but did you know it might affect your drinking water? Big steps have been taken to prevent that from happening but it came with a $40 million price tag.
The issue: the deepening of the Savannah harbor. We’re told the project to deepen the inner harbor, i.e. the Savannah River from 42 to 47 feet may result in water that is much more salty. “And if that salt water gets into our system then technically we have no way to treat it,” says Health Lloyd who is the City of Savannah’s Chief Infrastructure and Development Officer.
As part of mitigation, a huge reservoir has been built near I-95 and Highway 21 (near the Rice Hope Plantation.)
“So if we had an event, that reservoir would have 100 million gallons of fresh water where we could shut down our intake and pull from that reservoir until after the event,” said Lloyd.
He says for a problem to develop it would take a series of issues like a significant drought which means less water coming down the river. He also says a high tide could be a problem because it would mean water from the ocean would be pushed further upstream due to the deepening of the channel. Lloyd says if that salty water got anywhere near their intake system, they would need a way to keep it from contaminating drinking water. “So we would be able to pull from that reservoir and not pull salt water into our distribution system,” he said.
The reservoir was built by the Army Corps of Engineers with state and federal funds which are part of the overall budget for SHEP (Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.) But soon the reservoir will be turned over the to the city of Savannah which will have to maintain and operate it. “We estimate those costs to be approximately $300,000 a year,” said Lloyd.
While Lloyd calls the reservoir positive, he also acknowledges if not for the dredging, it would not be necessary. “So yes, it may seem that as a city we have to had added responsibility but it’s also important for this region that we support each other whether it’s the city of Savannah or the Port in everything that happens in this region, so that’s why it’s positive,” he told us.